Coal port developers ask for support in Pacific Northwest

2014-04-03T13:00:00Z 2014-10-03T14:31:14Z Coal port developers ask for support in Pacific NorthwestBy ERIK OLSON
April 03, 2014 1:00 pm  • 

Developers said Wednesday they are politically outmatched in their battle to build two coal ports in Washington state, and they’re begging for help from Montana industry.

That means letters, online comments and even trips to hearings in the Pacific Northwest, where regulators are conducting an “unprecedented” environmental review, developers said during Montana Energy 2014 in Billings.

“Lots and lots of ground-level organizing. And I’ll tell you, the opposition is better at it than we are,” said Wendy Hutchinson of Millennium Bulk Terminals, which is seeking to build the $643 million Longview dock on the Columbia River.

Hutchinson was joined Wednesday at the conference at MetraPark by Bob Watters of SSA Marine, which is hoping to build the separate $700 million Gateway Pacific coal port at Cherry Point near the Canadian border.

Combined, the two ports could export about 100 million tons of coal annually to emerging economies in Asia where demand is skyrocketing coal, especially from the Powder River Basin. The two companies plan to spend a total of $1.4 billion for the terminals and are locked in a public-relations battle in the green-leaning Pacific Northwest.

In the last two years, environmental groups and other coal opponents have flooded regulatory hearings with protests. State officials are studying the environmental impact of the docks, from the coal mines in Montana and Wyoming to the greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal in Asian power plants. Federal regulators have ordered a smaller study centered on the proposed terminal sites.

Once the study is complete in about a year, more public hearings will be held on the environmental impact study, giving both sides another chance to make their case. Past hearings looked more like rallies, with the two sides color-coordinating their clothes and cheering outside.

Officials from Millennium and SSA Marine say they will follow all regulatory requirements, but they’re frustrated by the delays they say are hampering them from creating jobs from the coast to the mines in a responsible manner.

“It’s our belief you can do both. You can generate good, family-wage jobs and be good stewards of the environment,” Watters said.

Millennium is jointly owned by Australia-based Ambre Energy and Arch Coal. The company is part owner of the Decker Mine east of Billings. Privately held SSA Marine is based in Seattle and is one of the largest shipping companies nationwide

Each proposed site presents its own unique challenges. In Longview, area officials are worried the 16 daily train trips to Millennium will snarl traffic without an estimated $200 million in rail and road improvements.

The Cherry Point site is currently undeveloped, which means SSA Marine would likely need to do more environmental mitigation, such as restoring marine habitats.

In Central Oregon, a third, smaller proposal from Ambre Energy involves building a barge dock and shipping coal on the Columbia River.

At the Billings conference, coal industry officials promised to lend their support in the Pacific Northwest.

“We either stand alone and fall, or we become a team and help each other,” said Bud Clinch, director of the Montana Coal Council.

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(5) Comments

  1. Frank James MD
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    Frank James MD - April 06, 2014 7:50 am
    The SSA clearly see this as managing public relations and are not taking the public seriously. Here are a few good reasons that they should be taking a very different approach. This list of scientific articles published in referred journals are filled with facts that they need to meaningfully respond too. It is no wonder that local physicians and community members do not approve of their approach.

    Ahern M, Mullett M, MacKay K, Hamilton C. Residence in coal-mining areas and low-birth-weight outcomes. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 2011; 15: 974-979.

    Ahern M, Hendryx M, Conley J, Fedorko E, Ducatman A, Zullig K. The association between mountaintop mining and birth defects among live births in central Appalachia, 1996-2003 Environmental Research, 2011; 111: 838-846.

    Ahern M, Hendryx M. Cancer mortality rates in Appalachian mountaintop mining coal-mining areas. Journal of Environmental and Occupational Science 2012; 1(2):63-70.

    Atabay M. The cytotoxic and haematological effect of coal dust to underground miners. American Journal of Biochemistry 2011;1(1):4-8.

    Bounds W, Johannesson K. Arsenic additions to soils from airborne coal dust originating at a major coal shipping terminal. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 2007; 185: 195.

    Franklin M, Zeka A, Schwartz J. Association between PM2.5 and all-cause and specific-cause mortality in 27 US communities. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 2007; 17:279-287.

    Hendryx M, O’Donnell K, Horn K. Lung cancer mortality is elevated in coal-mining areas of Appalachia. Lung Cancer 2008; 62: 1-7

    Hendryx M. Mortality rates in Appalachian coal mining counties: 24 years behind the nation. Environ Justice 2008; 1:5-11.

    Hendryx M. Mortality from heart, respiratory, and kidney disease in coal mining areas of Appalachia. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 2009; 82:243-249.
    ctober 17, 2013.

    Jaffe D, Strode S. Sources, fate, and transport of atmospheric mercury from Asia. Environmental
    Chemistry 2008; 5(2): 121-126.

    Le Tertre A, Medina S, Samoli E, Forsberg B, Michelozzi, et al. Short-term effects of particulate air pollution on cardiovascular diseases in eight European cities. J Epidemiol Community Health 2002; 56(10): 773-779.

    Liao Y, Wang J, Wu J, Driskell L, Wang W, Zhang T, et al. Spatial analysis of neural tube defects in a rural coal mining area. Int J Environ Health Res 2010; 20(6):439–450.

    Matolo N, Klauber M, Gorishek W, Dixon J. High incidence of gastric carcinoma in a coal mining region. Cancer 1972; 29:733-737.

    Orem W, Tatu C, Pavlovic N, Bunnell J, Lerch H, et al. Health effects of toxic organic substances from coal: pandemic nephropathy. Ambio 2006; 36:98-102.

    Reynolds L, Jones T, BeruBe K, Wise H, Richards R. Toxicity of airborne dust generated by
    opencast coal mining. Mineral Mag 2004; 67(2): 141-152.

    Schlesinger R, Kunzli N, Hidy G, Gotschi T, Jerrett M. The health relevance of ambient particulate matter characteristics: Coherence of toxicological and epidemiological inferences. Inhal Toxicol 2006; 18:95-125.

    Shiber J. Arsenic in domestic well water and health in central Appalachia WSA. Water, Air Soil Pollut 2005; 160:327-341.

    Temple J, Sykes A. Asthma and Open Cast Mining, British Medical Journal 1992; 305: 396.

    Tonne C, Melly S. Mittleman M, Coull B, Goldberg R, Schwartz J. A case-control analysis of exposure to traffic and acute myocardian infarction. Environ Health Perspect 2007; 115(1): 53-57.

    Vincent J, Jones A, Johnston A, et al. Accumulation of inhaled mineral dust in the lungs and associated lymph nodes: implications for exposure and dose in occupational settings. Annals of Occupational Hygiene 1987; 31(3): 375-393.

    Wu Z, Chen J, Ong T, Matthews E, Whong W. Induction of morphological transformation by
    coal-dust extract in BALB/3T3 A31-1-13 cell line. Mutat Res 1990; 242:225-230.
  2. Frank James MD
    Report Abuse
    Frank James MD - April 06, 2014 7:48 am
    There are many health reasons for not building these ports and transporting coal from Montana to Asia. The pollution created by both the transportation and storage of coal and ultimately its burning is just much greater than the benefits. It is another example of privatizing the profits and socializing the costs. Over 200 physicians here in Bellingham reviewed the medical literature and found there to me numerous serious questions that are documented in the medical literature that could be major threats to the community that have not been addressed in the proposal. SSA and it PR firms have tried to use public relations and political pressure where what we want are facts and information. The coal industry tried to buy our election in Whatcom County and the community organized and fought back and won. We have an EIS process at the county and state level that will answer the questions we have that they have fought very hard to make not happen.T hey won at the Federal level but the public disclosure laws also show that they donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to our formerly reasonable Representative, Rick Larson, who is now miraculously doing their bidding. But you can not buy a local community with promises, PR and magical thinking. It will take facts, real dialogue and an honesty and integrity that they have not yet demonstrated, if they want local people to even take them seriously. PR will NOT win the day.
  3. David1
    Report Abuse
    David1 - April 04, 2014 10:52 am
    Let's face it: Industries, societies, and individuals depend on fossil fuels. I don't like it, but it's reality. What are the alternatives if we shut down all fossil fuel production, without replacing it with equivalent energy production? Forget wind and solar; they aren't up to industrial scale energy production, more suited to individual residences and businesses.

    No, as we phase out fossil fuels, we must actively phase in an energy source that's cleaner than fossil fuels: nuclear energy. Enviros don't like that either, but reactors now are far safer than those involved in 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl, etc. America must get off its phobia of nuclear and embrace it.

    The fear of nuclear arises from past failures, due mostly to human error, including the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Human error in that disaster was locating the reactors at those locations. Many reactors today don't need water. They can be located in places relatively free of seismic activity.

    The Federal government should embark on a massive program to begin the process of weaning the country from fossil fuels to nuclear energy. The government should build, own, maintain, and operate these reactors; private businesses, operating for profit, cut corners on safety, and this cannot be done, as past experience has shown.

    We've had a nuclear Navy for at least 40 years and not one accident, due to nuclear. That's no accident; Admiral Hyman Rickover was meticulous and strict about making nuclear feasible for powering our ships. Only Federal oversight and control can win public acceptance of safe nuclear reactors, which is not an oxymoron.
  4. bobferris
    Report Abuse
    bobferris - April 04, 2014 10:03 am
    One of the reasons that the projects lack political support is that they cause well more harm than good. You cannot talk about capital invested without also talking about the massive public investment required to enable these projects as well as the economic impact to communities wrought through train-traffic related business interruptions and increased health costs associated with diesel particulates raining down on rail-side communities. Then there is the issue of the discounted coal in the first place. And you cannot talk about job creation without talking about the job losses in the manufacturing sector associated with selling a discounted raw material to a competing economy that enables those countries, mainly China, to make things cheaper. Add to that the implications to climate change and ocean acidification which are sensitive topic in the PNW as we see catastrophic storms and impacts to the shellfish industry and there is very, very little to recommend this set of projects unless you own a railroad or a coal lease which most of us do not. Bob Ferris, Cascadia Wildlands
  5. Pistol
    Report Abuse
    Pistol - April 03, 2014 1:30 pm
    Over a billion dollar investment wth private capital! It will create jobs in the private sector. Were are the polticians who run on new jobs for America platforms? Where is Tester, Baucus, and Daines? Heck Montana ships it's raw copper ore to the coast and it is shipped overseas for smelting. Have enviro regulations that are doable to promote jobs and keep Americans working.
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