The Longview City Council has written a scoping letter to regulators that requests study of ten issues, such as air and water quality impacts, before any permits are issued to allow construction of a proposed coal export terminal just outside city limits.
The letter, drafted by the council in a recent workshop, was signed by Mayor Don Jensen. The council approved its wording Thursday, drawing praise from a handful of citizens at the meeting.
The county, state Department of Ecology and the Army Corps of Engineers will consider all the comments the agencies receive when they determine the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement. Comments are due by Nov. 18. The EIS will be issued for public review and comment. Once it’s final, any mitigation measures the EIS requires will be put into permits the agencies issue to Millennium Bulk Terminals, which has proposed to export 44 million tons of coal per year.
The letter notes that the project is within the city’s planning area boundary, and any train or truck traffic must pass through the city to reach the site.
The council has asked the agencies to analyze, examine alternatives and propose mitigation for the project’s negative impacts on the following:
• Transportation – How will the coal trains affect local traffic when they block crossings? What impact will the project have on State Route 432?
• Air quality – What effect will diesel fumes and coal dust have on the local air? The city requests air quality monitoring be conducted near the facility as part of the EIS process. That way, if the facility is built, the impact of coal dust can be measured.
• Surface water quality – Will coal impact the food chain and harm animals that eat a lot of fish? Will it harm fisheries or the city’s ability to meet state and federal stormwater standards?
• Groundwater – Will the coal terminal harm the wells that produce the city’s water supply at the Mint Farm water treatment plant?
• Noise and vibration – Will the vibration and noise from trains and coal terminal operations cause ground settling, damage buildings and disrupt businesses and households?
• Light pollution – Will the facility’s nighttime lighting affect residents’ views of the Columbia River?
• Emergency service access – What impact would a coal fire or other emergency at the facility have on the safety of emergency response crews, citizens, employees and the environment?
• Local economy – Would Longview’s reputation as a “coal town” drive away investors and tourists and push down wages and property values? Would the transportation problems result in delays that hurt local businesses?
• The nearby Highlands neighborhood: The city requests that a comprehensive health impact analysis on the struggling neighborhood be conducted as part of the EIS process.
The letter also asks the EIS to examine the need for the coal export facility, considering that the price for coal is highly variable and some U.S. facilities have never been fully used.
“Should the facility be built, with its potential to disrupt the community, only to be abandoned later when the price of coal drops?” the letter asks.