The Coal Export Terminal That Won’t Die!

I’m sorry to bother you but today is the last day to submit comments on the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals (MBT) coal export facility in Longview, Washington, that would dramatically increase coal trains through dozens of Montana communities. Not to mention opening up a big new spigot of greenhouse gases when Montana coal is burned in far away places.

You can comment today by going here:

I adapted my comments from the comment form provided by our friends at the Northern Plains Resource Council. Use your own words. Even a short statement will do.

My comments:

Thank you for accepting and acting upon this very personal comment.

In this era of rapidly rising, record-setting ambient temperatures, we are already seeing the results of greenhouse gases poured into our atmosphere years ago: dying rivers like the Yellowstone and forest fires increasing in intensity and size and coming closer and closer to cities and towns. Climate change is here, and it’s nothing less than climate suicide to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming mines to a port on the West Coast the thence to Asia.

Increased coal train traffic will lead to increased diesel exhaust and coal dust pollution in communities along the tracks, threatening the health of people like me. It will also lead to more train congestion and safety hazards, more spills and derailments, more pollution of our rivers and streams. In Montana, we just spent many years and hundreds of millions of dollars cleaning up the Clark Fork River from historic mining pollution at Butte in the river’s headwaters. These new coal trains traveling to Longview will follow the Clark Fork the whole length of Missoula County, putting at risk a river healthier than it’s been in one hundred years and the recreational industry that depends on it.

It’s also true that increased train traffic will trap ambulances and fire engines at rail crossings behind mile-long trains separating them from emergencies. It’s not right that some coal companies will make steep profits while the rest of us will pay the price in a declining quality of life.

And at some point, we Americans must recognize that burning coal is the largest source of greenhouse gases causing global warming. We must go the other way, to stop all new sources of carbon pollution and keep all fossil fuels in the ground in order to make the goal of 1.5 C temperature rise set by the Paris climate accord. We have the money, the technologies, and the workers to make this Great Transition to carbon-free renewable energy, and we must do it now. Your draft environmental impact statement does not adequately assess the climate impacts of this new terminal.

Also, your draft Environmental Impact Statement does not assess the rail impacts the Millennium Bulk Terminal will have in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The document acknowledges that trains destined for the port will originate in the Powder River Basin and travel through Montana, but you must be stark raving mad not to study the impacts of increased rail transportation outside of the project area.

Go back to the drawing board and fix these glaring mistakes in the final EIS.

In addition, coal exports would create pressure for new Montana and Wyoming mines, in a region where coal seams are aquifers and increased mining threatens the land, water, and climate. You must take these impacts into account.

Any application of objective science will conclude that building a coal port in Longview will significantly degrade the local environment, the high quality environment along the tracks in cities and towns, rivers and streams in Montana and Idaho and Washington and, based on these impacts, I urge you to deny the permit for the proposed coal port in Longview.

Thank you,

Jeff Smith, Chair, 350 Missoula