TACOMA — A crowd estimated at 800 packed the fifth and final public hearing on a proposed coal export terminal at Longview, Wash., and once again red-shirted opponents outnumbered supporters.
The News Tribune estimated that only about 100 of those in the Tacoma crowd on Thursday night supported the plan to build a $643 million Millennium Bulk Terminals facility that would export to Asia coal arriving by train from Montana and Wyoming.
Opponents want an environmental impact statement on the project to consider impacts far from the actual terminal. They’re concerned about congestion from long coal trains and environmental risks from burning coal anywhere in the world.
Supporters say the project would provide construction jobs and jobs running the terminal. They say the project would boost the economy across the state.
Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello appeared at an opponents’ pre-hearing rally.
“Together we’re going to say no to those coal trains,” Mello said.
One of the few to testify in support of the terminal at the hearing was Mark Martinez, executive secretary of the Pierce County Building & Construction Trades Council. He said it will create jobs.
“These are not the sexy, so-called `green’ jobs that everybody thinks they want,” Martinez said. “They are old-fashioned, middle-class jobs that people can use to support families.”
The Washington Ecology Department and Cowlitz County scheduled the five hearings to gather public comment on the scope of an environmental impact statement on the Longview site on the Columbia River. The Corps of Engineers is conducting a separate environmental impact statement.
State Ecology Department spokeswoman Linda Kent says 50,000 comments have been received so far.
Hundreds of supporters and opponents have attended each of four previous hearings at Vancouver, Pasco, Spokane and Longview. Thousands have submitted written testimony.
Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, and Washington Environment Council, are organized in the group Power Past Coal. It says polling shows a majority of Washington and Oregon residents oppose coal exports from Northwest ports.
Plans to export coal are increasing as Americans phase out coal power and turn to cleaner energy, Power Past Coal says.
Millennium Bulk Terminals CEO Ken Miller spoke at a brief rally and news conference before the hearing started.
“This project is not the reason power plants are being built in Asia,” he said. “In the year 2000, Asia consumed 2 billion tons of coal. In 2010 it was 5 billion tons. In the next several years we will see the use of coal continuing to increase, in the order of at least another billion tons.”
Millennium is backed by business organizations in the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports. They say Millennium will clean up the former Reynolds aluminum smelter site, create 1,300 construction jobs and add $2 million a year in state tax revenue when it’s operating.
Other terminals that would ship coal to Asia are proposed at Cherry Point near Bellingham and at Boardman, Ore.