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Cowlitz tribe announces opposition to coal terminals

Cowlitz tribe announces opposition to coal terminals

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Cowlitz Indian tribal officials announced Monday they are opposing proposed Pacific Northwest coal docks, specifically the Millennium Bulk Terminals project west of Longview.

In a written statement, tribal officials said they worried that increased coal transport on trains and ships could threaten air and water quality along the Columbia River and harm salmon and smelt populations.

“We don’t see anything good for us or for our future generations with the proposed coal terminals,” William Iyall, chairman of Longview-based Cowlitz Tribe, said in a written statement.

Millennium is seeking to build a $643 million coal terminal at the former Reynolds Metals Co. site. The terminal would support 130 permanent jobs and generate more than 2,000 jobs during construction.

A week from Tuesday, state, federal and Cowlitz County regulators are holding a hearing at the Cowlitz Expo Center in Longview to determine the scope of the environmental review. Four similar meetings are scheduled statewide over the next month.

The Cowlitz join other Washington-based tribes, including the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Tulalip Tribes, in opposing coal terminals, which also face huge opposition from environmental groups because of concerns over rail congestion, coal dust and global warming.

Outside the Pacific Northwest, however, the Crow Tribe of Montana has thrown it support behind coal expansion, signing a lease agreement with Cloud Peak Energy in January to mine 1.4 billion tons of coal under the Eastern Montana plains.

Labor and business groups have also signaled their support for coal because of the jobs and economic development.

Two other proposed coal terminals are being considered in the Pacific Northwest. Australia-based Ambre Energy, which partially owns Millennium, is seeking to haul coal by barge from the Port of Morrow in Central Oregon to Port Westward near Clatskanie. Developer SSA Marine is hoping to build the largest coal terminal in North America near Bellingham.

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St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church pastor Kathleen Patton said she’s never thought of herself an environmental activist. But there she stood Tuesday, speaking in front of hundreds of environmentalists at an anti-coal rally and, later that evening, in front of thousands of people during a public hearing about the coal terminal proposed for Longview.

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