BILLINGS — A proposal to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming out of a port in Washington has received a favorable review from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps on Friday released a draft environmental impact statement for the Millennium Bulk Terminal port in Longview, Washington, the Billings Gazette reported. The document raised concerns about train noise and rail traffic causing problems for nearby low-income neighborhoods, but it said the effects on Native American fishing areas and the proliferation of coal dust were less significant.
Coal companies say they are optimistic after reading the environmental impact statement. The coal industry has been facing tougher pollution standards and competition from the cheaper natural gas, but companies say the coal market is cyclical and will rebound.
The Washington terminal will be there when the market picks up, said Rick Curtsinger of Cloud Peak Energy, which mines coal in southeast Montana.
“From Cloud Peak Energy’s perspective, this is a very good project,” Curtsinger said. “Millennium Bulk Terminals would certainly help Montana coal reach Asian utilities, especially in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.”
Cloud Peak has an agreement with Millennium Bulk Terminals to ship 7 million tons of coal per year through the port.
Environmentalists, however, argued that the environmental impact statement ignored some of the project’s problems.
“It’s rather surprising that (the report) would seem favorable because five of six coal port terminals have been rejected or dropped because they’re either undue burdens on communities or there’s no market for coal abroad. Increasingly, there’s no market in the U.S. for coal,” said Kate French, chairwoman of the Northern Plains Resource Council, which is based in Billings.
The public will have 60 days to respond to the 3,000-page draft report. French said her organization plans to comment.
Millennium Bulk Terminals did not respond to interview requests from the Gazette.
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