Catholic Bishops Call For Thorough Review of Coal Trains

By Paige Browning

November 8th, Washington state’s bishops threw in their two-cents about the proposal to ship coal from a terminal in Longview, Washington. In their statement to the agencies reviewing the proposal, the bishops call for a thorough project review.
 
The venture would bring trainloads of coal from Montana and Wyoming to a terminal in Longview, then export it to Asia. Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane says the Catholic Bishops are not pre-judging the project, but do want a complete study.
 
Cupich: “We know that there is job creating involved here, but also we know that there are interests of Native American populations, with their fishing rights and lands rights. There are the environmental concerns. And there are other issues that have to do with social responsibility in terms of how energy is used, and all of the issues that go along with the shipping of this coal.”

Bishop Cupich says the Catholic Church has a record of speaking up and contributing to the common good. Cupich adds that “More than a generation ago, the bishops of the Northwest region spoke about the Columbia River, that I think still has a lot to offer us today.”
 
Their statement on coal exports joins 86,000 comments already submitted. The comment period ends Monday, November 18th.
 
The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports is among the major proponents, and estimates the Longview project would create nearly 12-000 jobs, mostly in construction. Opponents to the coal exports, Power Past Coal and the Sierra Club, say the influx of coal trains would pose risks for the train infrastructure and for the health of people along the route.
 
The Washington State Department of Ecology, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Cowlitz County will each review the comments. They’ll individually release the scope of their reviews a few months later. The Corps must follow federal environmental laws, while Ecology and the county follow Washington state’s.
 
Regarding a similar coal export project near Bellingham, the Corps has said it will study the terminal only, while Ecology says it will review the terminal, impacts to the rail line, and to climate change.
 
Comments must be postmarked by Monday, November 18th, or submitted online by midnight that night.
 
Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio
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