Gateway Pacific Coal Export Report Summarizes 125,000 Public Comments

April 1, 2013 | OPB
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Bonnie Stewart


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  • The scene outside a November, 2012 hearing in Mount Vernon, Washington where people spoke out on a proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, Wash. A report out Monday is full of information on the series of meetings and comments on the proposal. credit: Katie Campbell
The scene outside a November, 2012 hearing in Mount Vernon, Washington where people spoke out on a proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, Wash. A report out Monday is full of information on the series of meetings and comments on the proposal. | credit: Katie Campbell | rollover image for more

If you are wondering what 125,000 people have said about the proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, Wash., you can take a look at a new report that came out today.

Federal and state agencies have been collecting public comments about the Gateway Pacific terminal project for the past few months. They will use the comments to decide how wide-ranging their environmental review will be for the export terminal as they make decisions about issuing permits for the project.

At full build-out the terminal could export 59.5 million tons of “bulk” product, mostly coal. The project would require the movement of 18 trains a day through the Northwest. That includes nine loaded trains coming in through the Idaho Panhandle, traveling through the Columbia River Gorge and moving north through Seattle to the port terminal.

The Gateway Pacific project is one of five coal export terminals proposed for Washington and Oregon.

A summary of the comments shows that most were from people who live near the proposed port in Whatcom County or in big cities along the coal train route. Cities with high comment rates were Spokane, Vancouver, Wash., Seattle, Bellevue, Mt. Vernon, Friday Harbor, Bellingham and Ferndale. Those are also the cities in which the agencies held public meetings to collect public input.

Many people want the permitting agencies to extend their environmental review to include the global impacts of exporting coal to Asia where it will be burned, thus further polluting the air for everyone. Some also favored the use of a regional environmental impact assessment that would include all five proposed coal export terminals.

Some comments focused on more local environmental issues, such as diesel emissions from trains and loading operations; coal dust from train transportation and loading operations; noise pollution; pollution for rivers, streams and aquatic life; and impacts on marine life, wildlife and vegetation.

Comments also favored the creation of jobs the export terminals would bring.

Now the agencies must determine what environmental issues they will study and draft an “environmental impact statement.” That could take another year, according to a press release.

More details on the environmental review process and the export terminal are available online.

© 2013 OPB
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