Letter: COAL: Broader NEPA review unlikely for proposed export terminals -- Army Corps leader Energy Wire

Jun 19th, 2012

Manuel Quinones, E&E reporter
Published: Monday, June 18, 2012

The Army Corps of Engineers isn't planning to take a broad look at the environmental impacts of proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, according to the agency's leader.Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, said the agency won't stray far from individual projects as it assesses six potential terminal sites in Oregon and Washington. The Army Corps is reviewing permit applications for three of those sites."The effects that the Corps will consider in the review of each project proposal will include the specific activity requiring [an Army Department] permit," Darcy wrote in a letter last week to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D).

She added that probes may also include "those portions of the entire project over which there is sufficient federal control and responsibility to warrant Corps [National Environmental Policy Act] review."
The projects could increase American coal export capacity by more than 100 million tons every year to feed Asian demand.Both U.S. EPA and Kitzhaber have asked the Army Corps for broad reviews (Greenwire, April 27).

Environmental groups -- including Climate Solutions, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace -- are asking for a programmatic environmental impact statement of how the terminals might spur increased mining, train traffic and climate change. The Army Corps, they say, is the most likely agency to lead the study."The scale of these proposals is unprecedented," Eric de Place of the Seattle-based Sightline Institute said in a recent conference call. He said the corps has already received thousands of comments on the issue, many asking for broad reviews.

KC Golden, Climate Solutions' policy director, has lobbied lawmakers and met with the corps in recent days to press his case. While the Army Corps' letter doesn't give him confidence, he said groups would appeal to the highest levels -- even the White House -- to push for a comprehensive study.

In a June 13 letter to the corps, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wrote: "While each of the applications are separate and distinct, they all share common elements that, when considered cumulatively, stand to have significant environmental and public health impacts."But Darcy said her agency would extend its analysis "only when the Corps determines that extension to be appropriate under its NEPA regulations and other relevant authorities."

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