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EPA calls federal study of coal-export project flawed

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LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has criticized as inadequate a draft study the Army Corps of Engineers did on a proposed coal-export project in Washington state.

The corps' draft environmental review is flawed because it fails to take a hard look at potential environmental impacts, such as air quality, rail traffic and climate change, EPA wrote to the corps in a letter Tuesday.

Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview is proposing a project in Longview to handle up to 44 million metric tons of coal a year. Coal would arrive by train from Montana, Wyoming and other states to be stored and loaded on ships for export to Asia. The project requires permits from the corps, among others.

EPA said the corps adopted an inappropriately narrow scope for its review and it recommended the corps' study be revised and resubmitted for public comment, The Daily News of Longview reported Thursday ( ).

"Because the corps analysis of effects is much too limited, the corps DEIS does not adequately assess the potentially significant environmental impacts of the proposal," the EPA wrote in its letter.

Millennium officials downplayed EPA's comments as just another step in the process, saying it's typical for EPA to comment on such projects.

"This is one federal agency commenting on the work of a sister federal agency," said Bill Chapman, Millennium Bulk Terminals CEO told the newspaper. "We expect The Army Corps of Engineers will weigh that comment and the many supporting our project and complete the final environmental impact statement in a timely manner."

A message left with a corps spokeswoman Thursday was not immediately returned.

Washington state and Cowlitz County are doing a separate, more sweeping environmental review of the project that includes studying impacts that extend well beyond the facility site.

The corps received more than 3,300 comments on its draft environmental impact statement during a comment period that ended Tuesday.

It may not be required to follow the EPA's recommendations, but the EPA's analysis could hold sway in courts if opponents challenge potential permitting decisions based on the corps' study, the newspaper reported.

Business and some labor groups have expressed support for the project, saying it would create jobs, boost the local economy and strengthen the state's trade capacity.

Opponents say moving millions of tons of coal through the Northwest and burning it in Asia would create too many problems, including potential train accidents, increased vessel traffic and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

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