By Leah Larson, Guest Writer
Hundreds gathered in the Tacoma Convention Center Oct. 19 to attend the fifth and final scoping meeting for the proposed coal terminal in Longview, Wash. Among those were roughly 15 PLU students.
The scoping meetings were designed to ascertain the opinions of Washington residents on the proposed terminal. During the meetings, various community leaders asked a panel of experts questions concerning the issue.
The site of the scoping meeting was also home to a rally for both supporters and opponents of the terminal.
According to Millennium Bulk Terminals, an operating bulk materials port that may build the coal terminal, the proposed coal terminal would process up to 44 million tons of coal yearly, employ 135 workers and create up to 1,400 jobs for Washington residents.
Coal export is a lucrative business, but not everyone is enthusiastic about it. Critics say it would be bad for the environment.
In fact, president of the G.R.E.A.N. Club, senior Jenny Taylor, said that of the 850 people who attended the public hearing, around 750 were opposed to coal export.
Opponents to the potential coal terminal said they fear it could create harmful coal dust. They also believe it would create a traffic gridlock in Longview as the 16 coal trains leave and enter the city daily.
“Coal doesn’t necessarily feel like something that applies directly to our lives, but burning coal is incredibly detrimental both to our health and to environmental health,” Taylor said.
Opponents also said coal processing has been shown to add to pollution and global warming, therefore possibly damaging the environment further.
Millennium Bulk representatives said their factories will be able to handle the coal in a way that will not negatively impact the environment. Some of the students present at the meeting, however, said they were not convinced.
“I just don’t think it’s possible to accurately predict what the coal may do to the environment of that area,” junior Christina Erikson said. “Sure, they might say that they can take care of it in a clean way that won’t harm the environment,” Erikson said. “But historically speaking, coal has been shown to be extremely harmful for the environment. Just look at China.”
Despite the widespread opposition to the coal terminal in Longview and the argument that it could potentially harm the environment, Millennium Bulk said the potential jobs it could create outweigh the harms.
“Communities are still recovering from the economic downturn,” Mark Martinez of the Pierce County Building and Construction Trades Council said. “This project provides an opportunity to turn it around with the thousands of jobs that would be created and millions in tax revenue generated.”
Millennium Bulk said the project would create $70 million in direct wages during the construction period of the terminal alone.
While no more scoping meetings for the project are being held, people are still able to submit their comments to Millennium Bulk online via their website until Nov. 18.
Kjersti Andreassen contributed to this article.