Spin Control

Feds may be struggling on coal port study

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is trying to figure out a way to make its narrow environmental study for a proposed coal port in Washington fit together with the state's study of the global effects of mining and burning that coal.

The Corps had scheduled a press conference this morning to explain its plans for the Environmental Impact Statement on a proposed coal port at Cherry Point, near Bellingham. At the last minute, however, Muffy Walker, chief of the Corps' regional branch in Seattle, said they weren't quite ready to say anything because of need for "some coordination above the regional level."

The higher-ups hadn't quite decided whatever it is they want to say.

Earlier this summer, the Corps announced it would conduct its EIS process under the narrow structure of the National Environmental Policy Act, focusing on Cherry Point and the surrounding land and water. The state said, however, it would conduct its State EIS with a much broader scope. Washington wants to look at the effects of mining the coal in Wyoming, transporting it by train through many of the state's cities and towns, hauling it out of the Puget Sound and across the Pacific to China, where it will be burned and possibly contribute to global warming. 

Spokane is among the cities facing increased traffic from more coal trains.

Business and labor groups that support building of the ports say the Corps is taking the right approach and the state is setting a dangerous precedent by ordering such a far-reaching study. Environmental groups opposed to the project support the state's approach. 




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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