May 17, 2017 - BNSF Railway has appealed an environmental review of a coal-export terminal in Washington state, arguing it miscalculated or overstated the risk of cancer for some residents.
Millennium Bulk Terminal-Longview has long wanted to build a facility along the Columbia River near the city of Longview to handle up to 44 million tons of coal a year. Trains would carry the coal from Montana, Wyoming and other states, which would be loaded onto ships headed to Asia.
The environmental study by the state Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County found diesel particulate emissions from trains serving the terminal would cause "an unavoidable increase" in the cancer risk rate for residents in one neighborhood, The Daily News reported.
But BNSF spokeswoman Courtney Wallace says there are no credible scientific studies suggesting that locomotive diesel emissions increase cancer risks. "There is no basis to say that. So it's concerning for us to have that out there in the public domain," Wallace told the newspaper Friday.
Camille St. Onge, spokeswoman for the Department of Ecology, said the focus of the study was to evaluate the potential impact to the local community and not intended to be a statewide report. She added that the review is not a permit decision, but a scientific study aimed at informing agencies responsible for permitting the terminal, which would add 16 train trips a day through the Longview industrial area.
The appeal was filed with Cowlitz County. County officials who co-wrote the environmental study could not be reached for comment Friday, the newspaper reported.
Agencies will use the review to decide more than 20 permits needed before the coal terminal can be built.
The environmental review by the state and county, which was released last month, found that the project would make rail accidents more likely and add millions of metric tons of climate-changing greenhouse gas globally every year.
Millennium Bulk Terminals said it does not expect BNSF's appeal to delay its permitting process.
Meanwhile, the company is appealing the state's denial of a key aquatic lands lease for the project. Before leaving office in January, Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark rejected a request from Northwest Alloys to sublease state aquatic lands to Millennium for the coal-export project. The case is pending in state court.