LONGVIEW, Wash. - The Cowlitz County Commissioners could have their hands full today, as they take public comments about whether to grant a permit to allow a coal exporting facility on waterfront land in Longview. Conservation groups say the proposal runs counter to the Northwest's longtime goals for cleaner energy, and hasn't had a thorough environmental analysis. Energy companies would use the terminal to send millions of tons a year of coal from Wyoming through the Columbia Gorge by train, then load it into ships bound for China.
Brett VanderHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeepers, believes higher-ups in the state should be making this call.
"The State of Washington can and should weigh in on this. We shouldn't leave this decision to local commissioners who are deciding whether to issue a shoreline permit or not. These are huge, regional and even national implications to exporting coal."
K.C. Golden, executive director of Climate Solutions, says that long-term, the plan would create more jobs overseas than in the Longview area.
"This is about digging up a huge chunk of Wyoming and shipping it to China. What's China going to do with all that coal? They're going to make the steel that we don't make anymore; they're going to manufacture the products that we don't manufacture anymore. That's not a good jobs strategy."
The Australian-based coal company, Ambre Energy, isn't the only one looking for a West Coast site to keep shipping costs down, but there are only a handful of places with good rail access and a deep-water port. The clean energy advocates say the coal shipments would clog railways and create coal dust problems in the Gorge. They suggest the site would be better used to attract high-tech or light industrial businesses.
The commission meeting is at 9:00 a.m. at 207 4th Ave. North, Kelso.