Sunday, June 3, 2012

Another Coal Terminal Issue

Selendang in trouble at Unimak Pass, Alaska
(Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation) 

Coal terminals have become a big issue in Washington State and the entire Pacific Northwest. For opponents of the coal shipping terminals scoping is the buzz word. That is when considering the various terminal proposals, What should the scope of the environmental review include? The list of issues and whether they are included in the environmental review is a key point of decision for the viability of the various terminal schemes and what will require mitigation and what will be allowed with no consideration. Beyond the local impacts of simply constructing a coal terminal other issues to be assessed may include rail traffic impacts due to the increase of rail traffic impacting other shipping and roads from Billings, Montana to Cherry Point, Washington, air quality along the rail route, mining impacts and CO2 impacts. The coal terminal proponents likely will resist having these issues included in the review and opponents will likely strongly push to have these issues included.

Frequently environmental impact statement scoping is a snooze with not a great deal of attention beyond a few agency folks. The last one I was directly involved with had no one from the public show up. Others have what could be termed the usual suspects participating. A pre scoping meeting in Bellingham just to inform the public about how scoping for the Cherry Point coal terminal will proceed had over 800 people show up.

This past week I learned about a new issue thanks to Barry. Perhaps that is why scoping hearings are so important. Someone will show up an raise an issue no one had thought about - say the great circle route large bulk coal ships will follow through the Aleutian Islands and the risks associated with this narrow ship passage.

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