Regulatory program acting chief Jennifer Moyer said at a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power that, while environmentalists had asked for a probe into cumulative impacts of exporting, the trio of projects in Washington and Oregon were not similar to one another.
“Although the proposed shipping facilities share a similar purpose, the facts and circumstances related to each differ substantially," Moyer said.
“Each of the three proposed facilities would cause very different types of impacts.”
All three of the projects would, if they come to pass, ship Powder River Basin coal, railed from origin mines, to Asian markets.
There were initially six planned facilities. The three that remain are the Coyote Island project at Port of Morrow, Oregon; the Millennium Bulk Terminal at Longview, Washington; and the Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham, Washington.
Opponents said all three would increase traffic and potentially increase pollution from coal dust during travel and climate change once the coal was burned.
A much broader reaching impact study, factoring in cumulative dust impacts of all three plus potential effects of burning the coal, would clearly make the approval process more complex.
The Port of Morrow and Longview projects are both planned for the Columbia River region, and the Bellingham facility would be located on the Puget Sound.
While the three are close to one another, Moyer told the committee that a regional review to examine all three simultaneously had “no compelling justification”
“They are independent projects in different locations, whose impacts are not related,” she said, noting that some of the impacts opponents have shown concerns over are outside of its jurisdiction.
If the terminals came to pass, they would create more than 11,000 jobs in the Pacific Northwest region, National Association of Manufacturers vice president of energy and resources policy Ross Eisenberg told the Associated Press.
His group has supported the Army Corps’ decision.
Combined, they would have the ability to ship a projected 110 million tons of coal to Asia annually.
One of the states that stands to gain the most from this export capacity is Wyoming, the heart of the PRB region.
That fact was not lost on state senator John Barrasso, who called the Army Corps’ decision “to follow the law and resist political pressure from extreme environmental activists” great news.
“As the permitting process for new coal export terminals moves forward, the White House should stand with the Corps and support its wise decision,” he said.
“With millions of unemployed Americans, the last thing Washington should do is make it harder for our state to export Powder River Basin coal and create good-paying jobs.”