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Coal terminal opponents tell commissioners fire is 'red flag'
June 20th, 2011
By Barbara LaBoe, The Daily News, Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 5:40 pm
Sparked by last week's industrial fire at the site of a proposed coal terminal, opponents of the plans were back before Cowlitz County commissioners Tuesday.
"I see this as a red flag for everyone concerned about cleanup of that site," Longview resident Gayle Kiser told commissioners.
"The fire was a wake up call about how the westerly winds can carry any particulate over Longview," added Margaret Green, also of Longview.
Opponents said they're worried that coal dust pollution will sully Longview's reputation. They say the fire only points out the problems at the former aluminum smelter site and why land owner Alcoa should be forced to clean up the site according to its agreement with the state.
Millennium Bulk Terminals has pledged to clean the site as part of developing it for coal exports, but several speakers Tuesday said if Alcoa cleaned it instead the region might be able to attract other businesses without the same pollution concerns as coal.
"We could destroy this town very quickly," Longview's Bill Kasch told commissioners. "We want more tourism, but as soon as this town becomes known as the armpit of coal, who is going to want to visit here?"
Commissioner George Raiter reiterated that if and when a new Millennium permit comes before commissioners, all they're allowed to decide is if the permit meets legal requirements. If it does, he said commissioners have no choice but to approve it.
If residents want to block certain types of business they need to "go to a higher forum" than the commissioners, he said.
State Department of Ecology officials say Alcoa is still responsible for the cleanup and is working with the state and Millennium to revamp the clean up order. The new order is expected later this year.
The cause of Tuesday's fire remains under investigation while inspectors wait until parts of the damaged building can be removed, said Alan Headley, assistant chief of Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue. Millennium's insurance company is coordinating some of the needed dismantling work, he said.
Letter to the Editor:
Consider all the implications of coal terminal
Commentary by Teresa Purcell and Gary Lindstrom / For The Daily News Posted: Sunday, June 19, 2011
We can do better.
The fire at the Millennium Bulk Terminals site last week highlights the need for our community to have this property cleaned up once and for all. Given the legitimate concern over the potential toxic air pollution and related health impacts from this fire, our community should really be concerned about the long-term health and economic impact of having tons of coal going through Cowlitz County on rail cars and sitting out in the open on the Millennium site.
Also, beyond its potential for significant negative health impacts on our community, the coal terminal could have a potentially devastating impact on our ability to continue to grow our port and attract other cleaner, more sustainable industries by overwhelming our transportation and rail systems.
Based on the assumption that exporting 25 million metric tons of coal annually (keeping in mind the company has mentioned expanding to 80 million tons) would require 10 trains per day — each one over 1.37 miles long — the trains would most likely block three to four road crossings at a time. Those crossings likely to be affected are Third Avenue, California Way, Oregon Way, Industrial Way and the main entrance to the Weyerhaeuser mill site. These bottlenecks could tie up traffic, make people late for work, and limit opportunity to transport new commodities — all while spreading windblown coal dust for miles.
Millennium is hoping to continue down the path of increased pollution, risk, and relatively few jobs or benefits for our community, while Millennium and its multi-national corporate partners realize huge profits. Under its proposal to build a coal export facility, it is clear that they would get most of the benefit and we would get clogged transportation systems, dangerous health impacts, and alternative economic opportunities put at risk.
We can all agree that the site must be cleaned up, but we need to learn from lessons of the past. Chinook Ventures promised to do it, now Millennium has promised to do it — but at what cost? We have ended up with more pollution, few jobs and over 400 unusable acres of prime river front property.
Let's choose a different path. The state of Washington has ordered Alcoa, one of the world's richest corporations, to clean up the abandoned Reynolds aluminum site, now leased by Millennium. The bottom line is this: we don't need to depend on Millennium to get the property cleaned up. It's Alcoa's responsibility. Moreover, Millennium has proven to be unreliable and untrustworthy. Millennium has already been caught lying to our community and county commission about the volume of coal it ultimately wants to ship though its proposed port. Millennium clearly cannot be trusted to do what's right for our community.
Let's hold Alcoa accountable to its legal responsibility and make it clean up the polluted land and water now. We know Alcoa has the resources to make it happen. It's time to tell Alcoa "Do the job yourself". This would create clean up jobs immediately and provide for significant potential job growth in the future.
We know Alcoa knows how to do cleanup right. In Troutdale, Ore., Alcoa won a national award for a site cleanup, which lured a FedEx distribution center that employs 750 people. Alcoa has a track record of cleaning up aluminum mills and selling the land for productive use. In 2008, Washington forced Alcoa to spend $45 million at its Vancouver mill site to remove cancer-causing toxins, after which the Port of Vancouver bought the decontaminated land to accommodate the surge for wind energy cargo and create 1,000 jobs.
We can make it happen here — let's make Alcoa do what it has been ordered to do and clean up the site, creating hundreds of acres of usable industrial land to boost our economic future.
Let's choose the path to a better future and create the quality of place that brings with it good jobs, clean sustainable industry, and a healthy place to raise our families.
This commentary was submitted by Teresa Purcell and Gary Lindstrom, residents of Longview and readers of The Daily News.
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