The Environmental Protection Agency has weighed in on the first of several coal-export projects in the Northwest, telling the Army Corps of Engineers that it should thoroughly review the potential impacts of exporting large amounts of coal from Wyoming and Montana to Asia.
A project at Port of Morrow in Oregon has “the potential to significantly impact human health and the environment,” the EPA said, so the corps should address overall impacts, including increases in greenhouse gas emissions, rail traffic and mining activity on public lands.
A subsidiary of Ambre Energy North America needs approval from the Corps to build an off-loading facility at Port of Morrow, along the Columbia River near Boardman, Ore. Trains would carry up to 8 million tons of coal a year from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming to barges at the Port of Morrow, where the coal will be transferred onto vessels at the Port St. Helens and shipped to Japan, South Korea or Taiwan.
It’s one of at least six projects proposed in Oregon and Washington to ship coal to power-hungry markets in Asia. Projects are planned near Bellingham, Longview and Port of Grays Harbor in Washington state, as well as at Port of St. Helens and Port of Coos Bay in Oregon.
Taken together, they could mean at least about 100 million tons of coal shipped per year to Asia, and environmental groups such as Climate Solutions, Sierra Club, Columbia Riverkeeper and others want regulators to weigh the bigger picture of moving so much coal through communities in the West.
“Collectively these many individual decisions will have a very dramatic impact on the region,” said Jan Hasselman, an attorney for Earthjustice representing the environmental groups. “If you look at the impact only in the context of each individual decision, there’s a consequence that the people most affected won’t be heard.”