Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Army Corps won’t expand export coal review

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Testifying Tuesday, June 18, 2013 before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, an Army Corps of Engineers official said the agency would not expand its environmental review of coal being exported through U.S. West Coast ports, despite objections from environmentalists in several western states.

The decision is considered a victory for the U.S. coal industry and freight railroads, both of whom have seen domestic coal use decline markedly in recent years due to price competition from natural gas and from increasingly strict environmental regulations, which have prompted some energy providers to shut down aging coal plants.

The Army Corps previously has implemented limited studies at two ports Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham, Wash., and at Millennium Bulk Terminal at Longview., Wash. A third study is being contemplated for facilities in Port of Morrow, Ore.

But the Corp's Acting Chief of Regulatory Affairs Jennifer Moyer told House representatives that more comprehensive agency official study was not appropriate.

"Many of the activities of concern to the public, such as rail traffic, coal mining, shipping coal outside of U.S. territory, and the ultimate burning of coal overseas, are outside the Corps' control and responsibility," Moyer said in submitted written testimony to the committee.

Western cities such as Missoula, Mont., and Seattle have objected to the increased traffic on environmental grounds. Supporters of coal exporting note the demand from Asian nations isn't likely to disappear any time soon, and also note coal transport generates substantial job activity in West Coast ports.

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