Corps not ready to make announcement on coal terminal

Posted by Ralph Schwartz on September 3, 2013 

National media left hanging; statement expected this week

I don't know how many media were on the phone line with me at 10 a.m. today to hear a statement from Bruce A. Estok, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Seattle District, about the proposed coal terminals at Cherry Point and near Longview.

Those reporters who got on the line after me and introduced themselves were from The New York Times, Bloomberg, the Spokesman-Review, KING5 and Northwest Public Radio.

Given the media it had attracted, this statement sounded like it might be important. At least, we were all prepared for something big.

It's just that the corps wasn't prepared.

"Some coordination above the regional level that we had planned on occurring at the end of last week" didn't happen, said Muffy Walker, regulatory branch chief of the Seattle District. "It'll be a few more days until we are in a position to communicate our actual statement."

The corps did say a thing or two. It reasserted its "co-lead" status on the environmental review, working in partnership with the state, Whatcom County for Cherry Point and Cowlitz County for the Millennium Bulk terminal near Longview.

"We do remain very committed to continuing working with the counties and the state in a co-lead relationship and a collaborative process," Walker said.

There was a chance to ask questions. The announcement apparently has nothing to do with the Lummi Nation's strong opposition to the project -- the type of opposition that has stopped projects in their tracks in the past.

"There is active government-to-government consultation going on with the Lummi tribe as well as other tribes, but those consultations are separate from what we are working on" for this statement, Walker said.

The upcoming statement, now expected before the end of this week, appears to have something to do with how the corps will square the limited scope of its own National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review (linked here is the original corps statement from June) and the relatively broad State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review, which will include greenhouse gas emissions from coal burning, traffic impacts from coal trains and human health impacts.

At least, I was given to believe that when I asked if this was what they were working on.

"We are looking at the process for those two distinct scopes," Walker answered.

So no news to report on what had been a highly anticipated announcement on the day after Labor Day. More will be revealed....



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