HELENA — Montana Attorney General Tim Fox is asking Washington state to narrow its environmental review of a proposed coal export terminal, saying a broad review may violate Montana’s rights as a coal-producing state.
In comments submitted this week to the Washington Department of Ecology, an attorney hired by Fox and North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the terminal near Longview, Wash., could help increase Montana coal exports, and that any review should not place an “undue burden” on the terminal’s construction.
“Access to overseas markets is vital to Montana’s economy,” Fox said in a statement Wednesday. “Montana is simply asking that Washington regulators follow established law in conducting their reviews.”
Fox, a Republican, noted that Washington officials earlier this year approved a far-ranging environmental study of a proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, Wash.
That review, which will consider the global impacts of exporting coal to China and transportation impacts outside Washington, is far too broad, and a similar review should not occur for the Longview terminal, he said.
Fox and Stenehjem submitted comments this week on the “scoping” of the environmental review.
Linda Kent of the Washington Department of Ecology said Wednesday the agency has received nearly 200,000 scoping comments. The agency, Cowlitz County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will decide later on the scope of two coordinated environmental reviews, she said.
Millennium Bulk Terminals, along with Arch Coal and Ambre Energy North America, is proposing a terminal that would export up to 44 million metric tons of coal a year.
The agencies also have received scoping comments from Montana groups skeptical about or opposed to coal development.
The Northern Plains Resource Council, for example, said the review of the Longview terminal should be an expansive one, considering “all the connected and cumulative impacts that will result if the facility is approved and constructed.”
NPRC said the review should look at impacts of increased train traffic, the Tongue River Railroad in Montana, and proposed coal mines in Montana, as well as the effects on global climate and health.
The comments submitted by Fox said reviewing the impacts on coal use in China, coal mining in neighboring states or climate change “ranges far beyond the boundaries of legitimate state interest,” and discriminate against out-of-state commerce.
“We request that the scope of review (of the project) be limited to matters within the jurisdiction of the state of Washington … and therefore exclude environmental and climate change effects in the states and countries to which the states’ coal production would be exported through the project,” the comments said.
Fox said Wednesday that he respects the need for an environmental review of the port, but that it should follow the law and the Constitution.
Fox and Stenehjem hired a Seattle law firm to prepare their comments, which were written by Rob McKenna, former state attorney general in Washington.