Editor's note: The coal industry is desperate to ship its product to Asia because demand here in the U.S. has dropped. Three coal export terminals are currently proposed for Washington and Oregon (down from six a year ago). Before they can be built, their environmental impacts must be evaluated. Climate activists have been calling for broad evaluations of the myriad impacts, while industry wants just narrow studies done. Today comes word that the environmental impact study for one of the proposed terminals will be wide-ranging and rigorous -- a win for anti-coal activists.
Hot off the presses: The three “co-lead” agencies in charge of reviewing the proposed Gateway Pacific coal export terminal at Cherry Point, Wash., have published the scope of their review. The major takeaway is that it’s bad news for the coal industry.
The industry did win an empty victory with the Army Corps of Engineers, the sole federal agency at the table, which opted for a narrow scope of review. But in the end it doesn't much matter. One of the other lead agencies, the Washington Department of Ecology, is going to require in-depth analysis of four elements that the coal industry had desperately hoped to avoid:
- A detailed assessment of rail transportation's impacts on representative communities in Washington and a general analysis of out-of-state rail impacts.
- An assessment of how the project would affect human health in Washington.
- A general assessment of cargo-ship impacts beyond Washington waters.
- An evaluation and disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions of end-use coal combustion.
Of those, two stand to be particularly damaging for would-be coal exporters: rail impacts and greenhouse gas emissions. There’s not a lot of wiggle room with either of those elements.