Army Corps leaves out Montana – Sept. 22, 2012

September 24, 2012

Categories: Coal, News, Northern Plains Resource Council

By Northern Plains Resource Council

Coal port expansion process only to look at Washington coal train impacts

Today the Army Corps of Engineers announced the start of the scoping process for the proposed Cherry Point coal export terminal in Whatcom County, Washington. The expansion is being proposed due to plans for shipping Powder River Basin coal to Asia, which will require building a huge deep water port to accommodate the coal ships headed overseas. “Scoping” is a part of the process in which citizens are able to identify concerns they would like to see addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement.

Northern Plains Resource Council, along with the Helena City Commission, the Gallatin County Board of Health, and the Missoula City Council, called for the process to allow Montanans to have a voice. However, Montana communities were left out of the scoping hearing schedule.

“Massive coal export will generate dozens more trainloads of coal each day through our communities, damage more land and aquifers just to fuel our economic competitors in China and India, and disrupt parts of Montana’s economy that rely on rail transport,” said Northern Plains member Beth Kaeding of Bozeman. “Montanans should have a voice in this process because it affects us a lot.”

Although coal use in the U.S. has declined in recent years, coal companies are marketing heavily to China and other Asian nations. That coal will be shipped along rail lines across Montana, substantially increasing the amount of coal train traffic going through Montana communities, especially Billings.

The Billings-based Western Organization of Resource Councils released a study in July titled “Heavy Traffic Ahead” that identified how the region’s rail system, including agricultural shipments, could be affected by the increased traffic by coal trains.

Hundreds of Montana citizens in several communities attended informational meetings, lobbied their city and county officials, and sent letters to the Army Corps asking to be part of the process.

The closest hearing venue scheduled by the Army Corps is in Spokane, Washington. Northern Plains will work to ensure that the voices of Montanans are heard in the process, even if the agency won’t hold hearings in Montana.

Headquartered in Billings, Northern Plains is a conservation and family agriculture group that organizes Montana citizens to protect water quality, family farms and ranches, and Montana’s unique quality of life.

220 South 27th Street, Suite A
Billings, Montana 59101
(406) 248-1154