A holy request for proposed export terminal

THE CATHOLIC Bishops of Washington are asking for a broad review of the planned Millennium Bulk Terminals project in Longview to mirror the one being completed for fellow proposed facility Gateway Pacific in an effort to reach “prudent and just decisions” on a myriad of related issues.

Donna Schmidt

In an open letter to the government agencies overseeing the project’s environmental impact statement, the group said that the effects of the terminal must be examined to fully determine potential risks and benefits.

“The proposals in question involve an interrelated set of moral, environmental, social and economic issues: from climate change to the need for jobs and the human right to participate in work; from transportation congestion created by increased coal train traffic to the possible destruction of state fisheries and threats to Native American treaty rights,” the bishops said.

“These are not easy issues to balance, and therefore much study and broad consultation are required to reach prudent and just decisions.”

Specifically, CBW said that a project the size and scope of Millennium must have an “exhaustive and independent review, including the environmental consequences of transporting coal in our region, the impact on jobs and the economy, the effect that burning coal has on climate change, the impact on regional transportation, the effect on regional fish and wildlife and Native American treaty rights”

The public comment period for the Millennium complex began August 16 and runs through November 18. It is undergoing a similar input period to that of Gateway, located in Cherry Point, Whatcom County, late last year.

A full review would examine environmental effects on water and air quality, cultural and archeological resources, fish and wildlife and other possible adverse environmental effects.

The bishops urged Catholics and those of other faiths and “all people of goodwill” to urge the full review on the terminal proposal, citing its careful consideration of the “connections between human and environmental ecology” over the last 30 years.

They also expressed particular concern about the harm adverse environmental impacts have on those who are poor.

The Catholic Bishops of Washington State include Archbishop J Peter Sartain of the Archdiocese of Seattle; Bishop Blase Cupich of the Diocese of Spokane; Bishop Joseph Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima; and Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

If the $US643 million project becomes a reality, it will export about 44 million tons of coal annually to Asia and provide 130 full-time jobs.

There will also be more than 2000 jobs during construction.

Once the comment period ends next month, regulators will need about a year to determine the scope of the review. That will be the guideline for the environmental impact statement.

There were initially six planned facilities but tough market conditions and environmental opposition have proven challenging for terminal developers.

The three proposed developments that remain are the Coyote Island project at the port of Morrow, Oregon; Millennium; and Gateway Pacific.

Combined, the terminals would have the ability to ship a projected 110Mt of coal to Asia annually.