Press release: Army Corps ignores Montana coal export concerns – June 18, 2013

June 19, 2013

Categories: Climate change, Coal, News, Northern Plains Resource Council

By Northern Plains Resource Council

At a hearing in Washington, D.C., today, the Army Corps of Engineers rejected studying the cumulative effects of sending millions of tons of Powder River Basin coal across Montana to proposed ports in Washington and Oregon.

The announcement is unfortunate, as the three remaining proposed coal ports would have significant cumulative impacts, including dramatically increased rail traffic through Montana communities leading to more pollution, traffic congestion, and longer emergency response times.

“Shipping more coal through Montana for export will have significant health impacts ranging from increased problems with asthma and COPD to increased heart attacks and strokes,” said Billings pulmonologist Dr. Robert Merchant. “One way or another, it is critical that those effects get looked at and addressed.”

The decision places added importance on a thorough review of each of the individual proposed facilities. Northern Plains Resource Council, a conservation and family agricultural group in Montana, has conducted nearly a dozen public meetings in communities across the state to inform residents about increased coal exports and to ask that these citizens be heard in a cumulative and area-wide environmental impact statement (EIS).

“Community leaders throughout our state and region know that coal exports will take a toll on our state’s health and infrastructure. That’s why local governments, elected officials like me, and thousands of individual Montanans have spoken out calling for a thorough assessment of the impacts,” said Missoula City Councilor Dave Strohmaier. “We won’t give up until we make sure our communities aren’t paying the costs of coal export.”

Regionally, more than 500 businesses, 160 elected officials, Oregon and Washington Governors Kitzhaber and Inslee, 10 members of Congress, 3 dozen municipalities, more than 100 organizations, 600 health professionals and more than a dozen newspapers have called for a full and thorough cumulative review of the proposed terminals. At least 35,000 citizens wrote to the Army Corps calling for an area-wide EIS.

“We are disappointed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to not consider the cumulative impacts of building the proposed coal export terminals on the West Coast,” said Jeannie Brown, a member of Northern Plains Resource Council, who lives 280 feet from the coal-bearing railroad tracks in Belgrade. “As hundreds of Montana citizens have expressed, our state deserves a thorough review of the health, safety, financial, and environmental impacts from the coal mining and train traffic that would result from increased export capacity to send our coal to Asia.”

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