Last week, Whatcom County and Washington State officials announced they will perform an additional environmental review that could result in further unnecessary delays to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal and BNSF Railway Custer Spur track expansion. The review, known as a “life cycle analysis,” will look at the impact of coal from “cradle to grave,” or from extraction of the coal in Wyoming all the way to its end-use in China. This type of action by a local government is highly unusual—not to mention of questionable legality—and could substantially delay the project.
While we’ve come expect these types of duplicative processes from the federal government, even the federal agency charged with overseeing the project, the Army Corps of Engineers, confirmed that this type of analysis is completely unnecessary and way outside the Corps’ jurisdiction, much less the jurisdiction of a county or state. You can read the Corps’ statement here, as well as testimony by NAM’s Ross Eisenberg.
Unfortunately, for the over 60% of Washington residents who support the project, this additional analysis—and accompanying delay—could mean the loss of thousands of potential jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic growth.
We agree that infrastructure projects should be thoroughly reviewed to ensure they meet state and federal environmental standards, but unnecessary delays such as the lifecycle environmental review proposed for coal exports do not serve a productive purpose. They simply add to the mounds of paperwork and complex web of regulation surrounding a project of this size. And they set a terrible precedent, one that could cascade to exports of all cargo, from grain to cars to electronics.
Manufacturers support the permitting and approval of pending coal export projects and call on the local governments to avoid unnecessary delays so we can move forward with the creation of thousands of good-paying jobs in the Pacific Northwest.
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