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SCB Calls for Comprehensive Review of Coal Exports’ Impacts on Biodiversity

January 19, 2013.  Today, the Society for Conservation Biology submitted scoping comments for the upcoming Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Gateway Pacific Coal Export Terminal in Cherry Point, Washington.  If constructed, the terminal would become the largest coal export facility in North America, sending approximately 48 million tons of coal annually to Asia, where it would be used primarily to generate electrical power at power plants with limited pollution controls that are generally not as stringent as pollution controls within the United States.

Because the coal export terminal is proposed to be built on an existing wetland protected by the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must issue a permit to Gateway Pacific in order to build the terminal.  Since the export terminal cannot be built without this permit, SCB explained in its comment letter that the Army Corps has a duty to examine the larger impacts to biodiversity from increased burning of coal in China.  Because little is known about the impacts of coal dust both on terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity, SCB requested that the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake a careful examination of the threats to biodiversity from this type of pollution.  In particular, SCB explained why the EIS must review include the cumulative impacts on biological diversity caused by:

  1. coal-dust pollution resulting from the transport of coal from the Powder River Basin
  2. the development and operation of the export terminal itself
  3. coal-dust pollution and possible hydrocarbon spills during river and nearshore transport in the Salish Sea by marine coal-transport vessels
  4. pollution in the Pacific Ocean from localized and long distance deposition of pollutants from the transport and burning of coal in power plants in Asia, and

SCB also offered recommendations for mitigation measures that should be considered in the upcoming EIS, and alternatives to consider in this process focusing instead on the development of a Green Economy.

Read the full comment letter HERE.