Coal Proposal For SW Wash. Brings 87,000 Comments, Pre-Deadline

By Tom Bacon

If you have any thoughts about a large coal exporting terminal planned in Longview Washington, you have very little time to get them down on paper. The comment submission deadline is a minute before midnight tonight.

Three agencies weighing the fate of the proposed 44-million ton Millennium Bulk Terminal have huge stacks of comments for and against the plan. But they've established a midnight deadline for the public to make comments before they begin the laborious process of writing an Environemntal Impact Statement, a process that could take a year or more.

Cowlitz County commissioners, the Washington Department of Ecology and the US Army Corps of Engineers need to sort nearly 13,000 comments gleaned from public meetings around the state, and they have amassed 87,000 comments via mail, e-mail and hand-delivered letters.

Virtually every trade and professional group has checked in with their opinions, but most of the mailed comments came anonymously and appear to be from individuals, many of whom live near the Columbia Gorge where rail coal traffic would be concentrated.

The Northwest Mining Association strongly backs the terminal, saying it would be wrong to apply different permitting standards for different products. The trade group wrote "it is not the proper role for government to pick winners and losers. to manipulate trade or the jobs that depend on it."

But the Gonzaga University Environmental Law Clinic countered by saying that exporting the coal will cause extreme harm to communities along the rail route from coal dust billowing from the rail cars.

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