40th District lawmakers call for task force to review coal projects

Jeff Morris - Contributed photo
Jeff Morris
— image credit: Contributed photo

Washington state 40th District House representatives Jeff Morris and Kris Lytton last week called for creation of a multi-agency task force that would identify the economic, transportation and environmental impacts of the proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, as well as four other export facilities proposed in the Pacific Northwest.

Under federal law, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is lead agency to conduct an area-wide review of proposals to build five coal terminals that together would export 150 million tons of coal per year from Washington and Oregon to Asia. The first of the five proposed facilities, the Gateway Pacific TerminalKristine Lytton at Cherry Point, just north of Bellingham, would process an estimated 48 million tons of coal each year, delivered by rail from coal fields in the Midwest.

At full capacity, as many as 18 coal-laden trains (nine full and nine empty), spanning 1.5 miles long, are expected to circulate through the terminal each day. The coal-carrying trains (nine full and nine empty), spanning 1.5 miles long, would run from Spokane along the Columbia River to Vancouver and then north through the heart of Puget Sound, including downtown Seattle.

“The size and scope of the terminal impacts communities across Washington and it certainly merits an accurate assessment of what a coal terminal would mean for our infrastructure, economic development, and environment” Morris (D-Mount Vernon) said in press release. “Considering our commitment towards value-added jobs and environmental protection, this project doesn’t appear to make a whole lot of sense.”

The deadline to comment on the scope of the GPT environmental impact statement is Jan. 21. Nearly 500 people attended an EIS scoping meeting Nov. 3 in Friday Harbor, and nearly 300 weighed in on the scope of the EIS.

Morris, Lytton are joining other lawmakers calling on the governor to convene an emergency task force of state agencies that would coordinate on a cumulative list of issues, concerns and impact topics with the state Department of Ecology, a co-lead with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Whatcom County on the project.

“The state has a responsibility to do a rigorous analysis that examines how the new terminal will impact our economy, environment, and transportation infrastructure,” Lytton (D-Anacortes) said. “The only way we’ll get the full picture—accurately and objectively—is if the departments of Ecology, Transportation, and Commerce aggressively collaborate and share their data with the lead agencies conducting the formal analysis.”



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