The Daily News reports state, Cowlitz County and federal officials will still work together on much of the review of the Millennium Bulk Terminal in Longview. But now they will develop two separate environmental impact statements, one by the corps and one by the state Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County.
The Longview terminal is one of three in the Northwest proposed to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia. The others are at Cherry Point outside of Bellingham, Wash., and one in Boardman, Ore. The Department of Ecology announced in July it would do a 2-year statewide study on the impact of exporting millions of tons of coal through the terminal in Whatcom County.
The coal terminals proposed for Washington state would ship a projected 110 million tons of coal to Asia each year, with the majority going through the Bellingham port.
The coal industry and its backers have pushed aggressively for the new export terminals, saying they would attract new jobs and help the economy. Environmental groups worry about the impact of transporting coal across the western states, as well as the global impact.
Previously the corps, Cowlitz County and state Department of Ecology had said they'd work together to develop the draft environmental statement for the Millennium project.
Such documents determine which areas will be studied for potential impacts and what steps might be needed to avoid or reduce harmful effects.
On Friday officials announced the corps now wants to write its own draft study, though all three agencies will still work together gathering facts and comments about the Millennium project. The corps changed course after the state expanded the scope of the study of the terminal in Bellingham.
"It made sense to do two separate documents but continue the collaborative process," said corps spokeswoman Patricia Graesser in Seattle. "Basically, our scope is quite narrow in comparison with what the (state) review will be looking at, and that difference did lead us to look at whether a joint document is the best path forward."
Lauri Hennessey, spokeswoman for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, praised the corps' move.
"Business, labor and trade leaders have expressed concern over Ecology's decision. Now the federal government has joined those ranks," she said. "Completing these projects without delay must remain a priority."
Opponents of the coal trains were criticized the move.
"The Army Corps decision doubles down on its announcement last month that it would take a very narrow view of the environmental impacts from coal export and continues to show a total absence of leadership and will just further delay and confuse the process," Cesia Kearns of the Power Past Coal coalition said in a statement.