SEATTLE (AP) — State and local regulators said Wednesday they'll consider a sweeping environmental review of the effects of a proposed terminal along the Columbia River in Washington that would export millions of tons of coal to Asia.
The review of the nearly $650 million Millennium Bulk Terminals project will consider impacts that extend well beyond the site, including global-warming effects from burning the exported coal in Asia and rail impacts as coal is shipped by train from the Rockies throughout the state.
The announcement represents a victory for project opponents, who said the decision ensures that concerns over coal dust, greenhouse gas emissions and rail traffic are addressed.
"It's appropriate for such a massive project," said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of the Columbia Riverkeeper. "It's encouraging to see the agencies take to heart the deep public interest in protecting our communities."
Some national and local business and labor groups criticized the broad scope, saying "cradle to grave" permitting isn't justified and would have a chilling effect on trade and economic development.
Ken Miller, president and CEO of Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, said in a statement Wednesday that the company had hoped to be hiring workers now, two years after submitting permits, but was pleased the agencies are moving forward. A spokesman for Miller said he would not be available for an interview.
The National Association of Manufacturers, the attorney generals of North Dakota and Montana and others had argued for a narrower focus, saying there's no precedent for such a far-reaching analysis.
"This decision sets an unnecessary precedent for manufacturers that could make it harder to obtain approvals for almost every product we export, from grains to airplanes," Ross Eisenberg with the National Association of Manufacturers said in a statement Wednesday.
State Department of Ecology officials challenged the notion that this review sets a precedent for others, saying that projects are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Ecology's Sally Toteff also noted that the state and county has just started the study and haven't reached any conclusions.
"How much of a concern are impacts from greenhouse gas emissions or vessel or rail transport? We don't know yet. How might this affect permitting decisions? We don't know yet. That is the point of the study," she said.