Fact sheet: Say NO to Millennium coal export terminal

What is the Millennium Bulk Terminal?

The Millennium Bulk Terminal (MBT) is a proposed coal export terminal in Longview, Washington that would export to Asia from mines in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Montana and Wyoming. The Washington State Department of Ecology recently released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyzing the impacts of the MBT for public comment.

If permitted, the terminal would add 44 million tons of coal per year – that’s 16 additional full-length coal trains each day (half full, half empty) – to the rail lines through Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Helena, Missoula, and other Montana towns. The journey from PRB mines to Longview is approximately 1,100 rail miles. Unfortunately, the draft EIS grossly underrepresents the effects this terminal would have on Montana’s rail communities.

In 2011, there were six proposed Pacific Northwest coal export terminals to ship Montana and Wyoming coal to Asia. Today, only two remain. Over the next few months, we have the opportunity to get to 100% and send a decisive message that the future of our region is one of clean energy, not fossil fuel extraction for the sake of export.

Of the original 6 proposed Pacific Northwest coal export terminals, four have been defeated in recent years. The fight is on to defeat the last two and prevent decades of costly new coal-export infrastructure.

How would Millennium Bulk Terminals Impact Montana?

Montana’s rail communities would likely receive 100% of the rail traffic that MBT would produce. Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Helena, Missoula, and dozens of other rail communities are bisected by the rail line, and would bear significant impacts if the port were constructed. In addition to the coal already being transported on Montana’s railroads, the MBT would move 44 million new tons of coal through Montana every year. That’s an additional 16 coal trains (8 loaded, 8 empty) every single day.

These trains would

  • Create more frequent and longer traffic delays at rail crossings
  • Degrade water quality
  • Impair wildlife habitat
  • Increase the likelihood of derailments
  • Delay emergency response vehicles
  • Spew coal dust along 1,100 miles of railroad
  • Emit carcinogenic diesel fumes
  • Increase noise pollution along the tracks
  • Add up to 27 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere every year.

Building the MBT will inevitably lead to new and expanded mining, which would tear up land, remove aquifers, and pollute streams. Building this terminal would lock us in to many years of new coal infrastructure in an economic environment that doesn’t require them.

What does the draft Environmental Impact Statement say?

A coal train backs up traffic in Billings.

A coal train backs up traffic in Billings.

Rail impacts: more pollution, more coal dust, more delays for emergency responders

The draft EIS recognizes the significant impacts that the increased coal train traffic from the MBT would have on rail towns. These impacts include rail congestion, air pollution from coal dust and diesel exhaust, and long waits, and decreased access across train tracks for emergency response vehicles.

However, the draft EIS does not assess the rail impacts the MBT would have in Montana. The document acknowledges that trains destined for the port will originate in the PRB and travel through Montana, but does not study the impacts of increased rail transportation outside of Washington’s borders. This is an important issue that needs to be raised.

Climate impacts: the equivalent of more than 672,000 cars

The draft EIS concludes that MBT would have significant climate impacts, likely ranging around 3.2 million metric tons of CO2 annually. This is equivalent to adding about 672,100 passenger cars on the road each year. The DEIS presents scenarios under which the climate impacts could be even higher- up to 27 million tons/year.

Coal’s long-term costs

Exporting a dirty, 19th century fuel is not an effective or sustainable path to prosperity or energy security in the 21st century. Coal exported overseas doesn’t keep lights on or homes warm in Montana, Washington, or in the United States.

Exporting coal means we have to deal with the on-the-ground impacts here in Montana, including water and air pollution, damaged aquifers, condemnation of private property for coal infrastructure, and large increases in rail traffic across our state.

Wherever the coal is burned, the skies above Montana will be polluted. We will be adding substantially to the load of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. In the process, we will be undermining our efforts to curb air pollution in America. Every dollar America invests in new coal development is a dollar that can’t be spent to develop clean energy jobs and true energy independence for our nation.

NoCoalExportsSignGulicks(2)_2013-10-10The DEIS completely ignores the impacts of new mining in Montana to meet demand created by construction of the port.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

The draft EIS was made available for public review and comment on April 29, 2016. The Washington Department of Ecology will be collecting written comments online or by mail, and they have made comment forms available to the public. Comments must be postmarked by June 13, 2016. Written comments should be mailed to Millennium Bulk Terminals EIS, c/o ICF International, 710 Second Avenue, Suite 550, Seattle, WA 98104.

The department will also accept oral testimony given at the public hearings in Washington State, recorded in front of an audience, or recorded in a private setting. Public hearings will be held on May 24 in Longview, on May 26 in Spokane, and June 2 in Pasco. Each city will host two hearings, one from 1-4 p.m. and the other from 5-9 p.m.

To access the draft EIS, learn more about how to comment, or comment online, visit http://www.millenniumbulkeiswa.gov/sepa-draft-eis.html

21st Century Economy for Montana

We’re at a turning point. Coal prices (Asian and domestic) are near record lows, while America’s solar industry is growing 20x faster than the rest of the U.S.  economy. We can’t build the economy of the future on the energy of the past. Building new coal export infrastructure would lock us into decades of additional pollution and carbon emissions. The time is now to act on catastrophic global climate change and build the future we want for our children and grandchildren.

 

 

NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
220 South 27th Street, Suite A
Billings, Montana 59101
(406) 248-1154
info@northernplains.org