Environmental review for a proposed coal terminal near Longview is about to begin now that a scope of study has been initially set by Cowlitz County and the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology).
The information gathered during this phase, which includes analyses, detailed models and other unbiased information, will be used to complete a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). An EIS is prepared when a proposed project is likely to have significant adverse environmental impacts. The SEPA co-lead agencies are Cowlitz County and Ecology.
Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview LLC proposes to build and operate a terminal to export coal from the site of the former Reynolds Aluminum smelter.
The purpose of an EIS is to provide a comprehensive look at impacts attributable to the proposal and measures that may be taken to offset such impacts. The draft EIS will study the standard list of topics identified in SEPA and will look at possible impacts to the natural and built environment. These topics are called “elements of the environment.” Some issues to be studied touch on more than one SEPA element like possible impacts on health and the local community, and potential impacts from air pollutants (like greenhouse gases and diesel particulates) on Washington state.
The most detailed analysis will be done on probable impacts within Cowlitz County. The study also will review and evaluate probable impacts in other parts of Washington state. Outside the state, the study will include less-detailed discussion on probable impacts, including those related to rail and vessel traffic.
Additional details on the study phase are available on the official EIS website. Click on the SEPA EIS tab to expand it and view this information.
“We heard a variety of concerns and questions during scoping, and now we are at the stage where we can move forward and gather information,” said Elaine Placido, Cowlitz County Director of Building and Planning. “We listened to thousands of people – those who live near the proposed project site to those who live outside the county.”
During scoping, Cowlitz County and Ecology solicited information on what should be studied in the EIS. A report summarizing and categorizing comments received during scoping is posted on the EIS website.
“We are committed to a thorough, fair and objective review,” Placido said. “Just like everyone else, we want to move forward and do the necessary research and analyses – and produce a quality draft EIS for public review and comment. The completion of the draft EIS will be an important milestone.”
After comments are considered and any revisions made, a final EIS will be issued. After that, the permitting process may begin.
“SEPA provides a look-before-you-leap approach,” Sally Toteff, Ecology Southwest Region Director said. “What this means is that SEPA requires agencies be fully informed of and consider the environmental impacts a proposed action may have before making any decisions.”
Governmental agencies have been using EISs to inform their decisions since SEPA was adopted in 1970. While EISs can provide a lot of information to support local and state agencies’ permit decisions, an applicant may still be required to supply additional information to meet the requirements of a particular local, state or federal permit/approval.
While Cowlitz County and Ecology are overseeing this EIS under SEPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is developing an EIS under the federal National Environmental Policy Act. The three agencies are using a coordinated process to create the two separate EISs, including sharing a consultant to help prepare the EISs and sharing an EIS website.
As the study phase continues, new information will be periodically posted online at www.millenniumbulkeiswa.gov. For updates on important public involvement milestones, such as when the draft EIS is released, people can sign up for the Millennium EIS ListServ.