Army Corps Won't Review Coal Proposals As One Large Package

By Tom Bacon

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided to retreat to neutral ground in the fight over sending long train-loads of coal through Washington and Oregon to export terminals on the coast.

The Corps dealt a blow to environmental groups - and to Governors Jay Inslee and John Kitzhaber - when it told House lawmakers Monday that it will not conduct broad environmental reviews for the massive coal shipping projects. The Army Corps regulatory chief, Jennifer Moyer, told a House panel there's no compelling reason to conduct area-wide environmental impact statements for each of the three applications to build huge coal terminals.  One is planned at Cherry Point, Washington - another in Longview - and a third on the Columbia River at Boardman, Oregon. 

Several congressional Democrats - notably, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden - have urged the Corps to carry out extensive environmental reviews, including the impact of shipping coal through the states in mile-long unit trains. They argue the Corps should study the cumulative effects of coal dust pollution on communities and waterways.

The Oregon and Washington governors have also urged President Obama to consider the projects' impact on climate change. They contend the National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to weigh the greenhouse gas effects of their decisions.

But Moyer told the House committee at the Corps must confine its review to emissions produced at the coal terminals.
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