• General Questions (click to expand)

    Q: What is a lead agency?  Who is the lead agency for this project?

    A: There are three lead agencies collaborating on the environmental review for the MBTL proposal – Cowlitz County, Ecology, and the Corps. Cowlitz County and Ecology are following the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the Corps is following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The agencies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to conduct a synchronized environmental review process as Co-Lead Agencies under their respective regulatory authorities. Cowlitz County and Ecology are jointly overseeing preparation of the SEPA EIS and the Corps is overseeing the preparation of the NEPA EIS.

    Q: What are the responsibilities of  lead agencies?

    A: The lead agencies- Cowlitz, Ecology, and the Corps - are responsible for ensuring their respective federal and state environmental rules and regulations are followed thoroughly, rigorously and without bias throughout the environmental review process for this project. The public expects a thorough review and assurance the potential impacts are disclosed, evaluated, and appropriately addressed. This type of review is ultimately what is done for every project requiring an EIS. The agencies are neutral decision makers who do not take a position “for” or “against” project proposals.

    Q: What are the specific scopes unique to SEPA and NEPA regulations?

    A: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) implements NEPA consistent with Federal regulations at 33 CFR 325, Appendix B (NEPA Implementation Procedures for the Regulatory Program). The Corps extends its scope of analysis beyond the activities requiring a Department of the Army permit only where the Corps has sufficient control and responsibility to warrant review. The Corps is not considering impacts that may occur in association with the overall coal export process, such as rail traffic, coal mining, shipping coal beyond the territorial seas, and burning coal overseas, to be the effects of the Corps’ action. These activities are beyond the Corps’ control and responsibility.

    Cowlitz County and Ecology implement SEPA in accordance with chapter 197-11 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC), and must consider any probable, significant, adverse environmental impact from a proposed project consistent with WAC 197-11-060. Such impacts are subject to review, and possibly mitigation and/or denial, if the impacts cannot be mitigated. SEPA does not limit its scope to those aspects within the jurisdiction of the regulatory agencies, including local or state boundaries. The extent of the SEPA analysis (whether in a checklist to inform a threshold determination or in an EIS) is determined case-by-case. Additional information on what the SEPA EIS will study is provided in the FAQ section on the SEPA EIS below.

    Q: What is the benefit to a coordinated environmental review process?

    A: By working collaboratively during the environmental review process, the federal NEPA and Washington’s SEPA requirements will be addressed in a more efficient and streamlined manner. The goal is to simplify the review process by sharing relevant processes and information about the project.

    Q: What impacts will be included in each EIS?

    A: The scoping process has helped identify which potential direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental resource areas to include in each EIS.

    Q: When will the EISs be completed?

    A: April 29, 2016 for the SEPA Draft EIS. September 29, 2016 for the NEPA Draft EIS.

    Q: Will the EIS documents decide whether the proposal will happen or not?

    A: No, the primary purpose of an EIS is to provide an impartial evaluation of a proposal’s likely impacts on the human and natural environment. It includes objective discussions of environmental impacts, reasonable alternatives, and mitigation measures that would avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts. The NEPA and SEPA EISs will be used by agency decision-makers to inform their permit decisions or other approvals.

    Q: Who makes the final decision whether the proposal is approved or not?

    A: No single agency makes a final approval or disapproval for the entire proposal. The proposal will need multiple permit decisions from a variety of federal, state, and local agencies. Permit decisions by federal, state, and local agencies cannot be can be made until after the EIS process is complete. Each permit has its own regulatory process, timeline and requirements.

    Q: Has the construction for the proposal already started?

    A: No. Construction for the proposal cannot start before the EIS processes and then permit decisions are completed.

    Q: How much coal will be handled at the proposed facility?

    A: The MBTL proposal is for a facility that would ultimately have the capacity to handle 44 million metric tons  of coal annually.

    Q: Where do I vote on the proposal?

    A: The EIS process is not a vote.  NEPA and SEPA are intended to identify and evaluate probable environmental impacts and for the development of mitigation measures that would reduce adverse environmental impacts. An EIS is an impartial, comprehensive document that is used by agency decision-makers for their permitting processes.

  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

    Q: What is NEPA?

    A: NEPA stands for National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA requires federal officials to consider environmental values alongside the technical and economic considerations that are inherent factors in federal decision making. NEPA calls for the evaluation of reasonable alternatives to a proposed federal action; solicitation of input from organizations and individuals that could potentially be affected; and the unbiased presentation of direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of the federal action. This information is used by a federal official before taking an action, such as making a decision on whether or not to issue a permit. The Corps has agency-specific procedures for implementing NEPA found at 33 CFR 325 Appendix B.

    Q: What is included in the NEPA EIS analysis?

    A: Under NEPA, the Corps’ scope of analysis includes the activities requiring a Department of the Army permit from the Corps plus those activities outside of waters of the U.S. over which the Corps has sufficient “control and responsibility.”  The Corps’ scope of analysis for this EIS will include the entire MBTL project area and any off-site area that might be used for compensatory mitigation.  The project area consists of the approximately 190-acre shipping terminal project site, the area that would be dredged, the dredged material disposal site(s), and any other area in or adjacent to the Columbia River that would be affected by, and integral to, the proposed project.

  • State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

    Q: What is SEPA?

    A: SEPA stands for State Environmental Policy Act. SEPA requires agencies to take environmental factors into consideration before taking action on proposed projects, such as making a decision on whether or to not to issue a permit. SEPA has two main avenues for considering environmental factors – through an environmental checklist or an EIS. SEPA calls for the evaluation of reasonable alternatives to a proposed local or state action; solicitation of input from organizations and individuals that could potentially be affected; and the unbiased presentation of direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of the action.

    SEPA provides opportunities for the public to have a voice at key points in the environmental
    review process:

    • During scoping (Scoping period now closed)
    • When a draft EIS is issued (Check back on this website for updates)

    Q. What is included in the SEPA EIS analysis?

    A. An important purpose of an EIS is to provide the public and agencies with information about the effects of a proposal. The EIS entails an objective analysis of environmental impacts, reasonable alternatives, and mitigation measures that avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts.

    Cowlitz County and Ecology decided the environmental review will evaluate the standard SEPA elements of the environment (including earth, air, water, plants and animals, energy and natural resources, environmental health, land and shoreline use, transportation, and public services and utilities). These are defined under WAC 197-11-444.

    SEPA – Cowlitz County

    As a SEPA co-lead, Cowlitz County participated in the determination of the preliminary scope of analysis for the proposed facility .  The Memorandum of Understanding between the co-lead agencies allows Cowlitz County and the Department of Ecology to require different levels of analysis within the same SEPA EIS document, therefore Cowlitz County has further refined its interests within the scope of analysis to include;

    • A detailed assessment of rail transportation impacts in Cowlitz County, specifically including the project site and the BNSF spur line.
    • A detailed assessment of coal dust impacts in Cowlitz County, specifically including the project site and along rail lines within Cowlitz County.
    • An assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from terminal operations, and rail and vessel traffic within Cowlitz County.

    SEPA – Washington Department of Ecology Scope of Analysis

    In addition to Cowlitz County’s scope of analysis, Ecology’s scope includes:

    • A thorough analysis of rail transportation impacts in Washington and a general assessment of out-of-state rail impacts.
    • A thorough analysis of vessel transportation impacts along the Columbia River and a general assessment of cargo-ship impacts beyond Washington waters.
    • An evaluation and disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions of end-use coal combustion and rail and vessel traffic in Washington.

    Lead agencies may further revise the scope of analysis for the draft EIS based on new findings or information during the development of the draft EIS process progresses.

    Q. Does the SEPA EIS study the impacts of air pollutants like greenhouse gases?

    A. The EIS will contain an evaluation of impacts associated with the project from greenhouse gas emissions including those from terminal construction and operations, rail and vessel traffic, and end-use coal combustion.

    The analysis does NOT include evaluating environmental impacts within any country importing the coal. A question the environmental impact statement will analyze is the amount of greenhouse gases attributable to the project.  Greenhouse gases contribute to climate change which in turn can affect snow pack levels, ocean acidification and wildfire season in Washington.

    Q. Does the SEPA EIS study rail transportation impacts?

    A. Yes, Cowlitz County and Ecology view the increase of 16 train trips a day in and out of Cowlitz County as a potentially significant adverse impact.

    The draft EIS provides a detailed assessment of rail transportation impacts within Cowlitz County as well as a less detailed but still thorough evaluation of impacts elsewhere in Washington.  A more general discussion of out-of-state rail impacts is also included, extending from the mine site to the facility.

    Q. Does the SEPA EIS study vessel transportation impacts?

    A. Yes, Cowlitz County and Ecology view the increase of 140 ship transits a month in the Columbia River as a potentially significant adverse impact.

    The draft EIS provides a detailed assessment of cargo-ship impacts in the Columbia River, such as from air pollution or possible spills, with a more general discussion of impacts in open ocean waters.

    Q. What overall geographic area is studied in the SEPA EIS?

    A. SEPA includes a specific section that directs lead agencies to look beyond their jurisdictional boundaries for environmental impacts that are probable as a result of the project -- because impacts don’t stop at county or state borders.  (WAC 197-11-060)

    The SEPA EIS  uses a tiered approach when looking at impacts associated with

    the project:

    • The most detailed analysis will be done on the probable impacts within Cowlitz County.
    • The study will also analyze probable impacts in other locations in Washington.  The level of analysis will be based on the likelihood and significance of a particular impact due to the proposal.
    • Outside of the state, the study will include less detailed discussion on some impacts.

    Q. Who is paying for the preparation of the SEPA EIS?

    A. A third party contractor was hired to prepare an objective SEPA EIS. Cowlitz County administers the contract and the County and Ecology oversee and direct the contractor’s work. The cost of the analysis, document preparation, and public outreach activities are paid by the Applicant.

    Q. When will the SEPA EIS be completed?

    A. April 29, 2016.

    It’s important to emphasize that the environmental review process is not a decision. It is not a permit.

    It is not a yes or no about this project. The purpose of an EIS is to conduct an assessment of probable, significant and adverse impacts from the proposal and possible mitigation measures (measures to offset impacts).

  • Scoping

    Q: What is a scoping meeting?

    A:   A scoping meeting is an opportunity to involve and hear from interested parties including the public, local communities, tribes, and agencies in the environmental review process. It allows the Co-Lead Agencies to identify issues and concerns.

    Q: What is the purpose of scoping?

    A: The purpose of scoping is to determine the "scope" or content of each EIS. The scope identifies the potential environmental impacts and alternatives that need to be evaluated. The scoping process allows the public, communities, tribes, and agencies to recommend impacts and alternatives to evaluate in the EIS and help identify issues and concerns.

    Q: Is the scoping meeting a public hearing?

    A: No.  A scoping meeting is not a public hearing. Public hearings have formal procedural and legal steps that differ from scoping meetings. NEPA and SEPA are intended to identify and evaluate potentially significant environmental impacts and mitigation measures that could avoid, reduce, or minimize adverse environmental impacts. The EIS documents are an objective, comprehensive document used by agency decision-makers to inform their permitting and other decisions. Although scoping meetings are not required by SEPA or NEPA, the Agencies decided to offer five public meetings around Washington where people could learn more about the proposal and provide written and/or verbal comments to help inform the Draft EISs. People did not have to attend scoping meetings to submit comments – there were a variety of ways to do this and all comments are being treated equally.

    Q: What should scoping comments address?

    A: Public comments on the scope of each EIS help the Agencies determine what should be addressed in each document. Comments may address:

    • A reasonable range of alternatives (identification of an alternative site for a terminal, or identification of an alternative approach to bulk material handling that achieves the proposal’s objective).
    • Potentially affected resources and extent of analyses (identification of natural, cultural, or community resources that will be potentially affected and the extent of study and analyses that is needed to understand the potential impacts)
    • Significant unavoidable adverse impacts
    • Measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate (offset) effects of the proposal

    Q: Does it matter what method people use to comment on the Draft EIS?

    A: No. All comments are valued equally no matter what method was used.  It doesn’t matter if a comment was submitted online, via U.S. mail, or recorded verbally. All comments were considered equal by the Co-Lead Agencies. However, remember that only those comments submitted within the scoping period dates were considered for each Draft EIS.

    Q: When and where were the public scoping meetings held?

    A: Five public scoping meetings were held throughout Washington, as listed below:

    • Closed- Longview. Tuesday, September 17, 2013. Cowlitz County Expo Center  12pm-8pm
    Open House: 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Oral comments: 1pm to 4pm NEPA and 5pm to 8pm SEPA

    • Closed- Spokane. Wednesday, September 25, 2013. Spokane Convention Center  5pm-8pm

    • Closed- Pasco. Tuesday, October 1, 2013. The Trac Center  5pm-8pm

    • Closed- Clark County. Wednesday, October 9, 2013. Clark County Fairgrounds  12pm-8pm
    Open House: 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Oral comments: 1pm to 4pm NEPA and 5pm to 8pm SEPA

    • Closed- Tacoma. Thursday, October 17, 2013. Tacoma Convention Center  5pm-8pm

    Q: With the scoping period closed, is there another chance for me to comment?

    A: Yes. There are several ways to receive updated information, including opportunities for comment:

    • Sign up for the MBTL EIS Email List for email announcements of meetings.

    • Media releases will be sent to newspapers and radio stations announcing meeting dates.

    SEPA Register

    Federal Register notice

    This website and Ecology’s website

  • Draft EIS Public Comment Period

    Q: When was the SEPA Draft EIS public comment period?

    A: The comment period was from April 29, 2016 through June 13, 2016.

    Q: How can I comment on the SEPA Draft EIS?

    A: The comment period is now closed.

    Q: When and where are the public hearings/open houses?

    A: Three public hearings/open houses will be held during the Draft EIS public comment period:

    May 24, 2016, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

    Cowlitz County Regional Conference Center

    1900 7th Avenue, Longview, WA 98632

     

    May 26, 2016, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

    Spokane Convention Center
    334 W Spokane Falls Boulevard, Spokane, WA 99201

     

    June 2, 2016, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

    TRAC Center

    6600 Burden Boulevard, Pasco, WA 99301

    Q: What should Draft EIS comments address?

    A: Commenters are encouraged to focus their comments on three topics:

    • Methods used for the analyses
    • Findings in the Draft EIS related to potential resource impacts
    • Proposed measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts of the proposed facility.

    Q: Does it matter what method people use to comment on the Draft EIS?

    A: No. All comments are valued equally no matter what method is used.  It doesn’t matter if a comment is submitted online, via U.S. mail, or recorded verbally at a public hearing. All comments are considered equal by the Co-Lead Agencies. However, remember only those comments submitted within the Draft EIS public comment period will be considered.

    Q: How will public comments be used in the EIS process?

    A: Comments on this Draft EIS will be received and compiled. The co-lead agencies will prepare and release a Final EIS that includes responses to comments on the Draft EIS. The co-lead agencies anticipate the Final EIS will be published in 2017. The Final EIS will be used by Cowlitz County, Ecology, and other agencies for decision-making regarding permits for the Proposed Action. Seven days following publication of the Final EIS, permits for construction and operation of the Proposed Action may be issued. All local, state, and federal permits must be issued before construction of the Proposed Action may begin

     

  • Permitting

    Q:  How are EISs used for permitting?

    A: A number of local, state, and federal permits will be required for construction and operation of the facility. Each Draft EIS will identify these in detail, and each agency responsible for a permit will use the information in the appropriate EIS in their decision-making.

  • Cleanup

    Q: Is there a cleanup going on at the site?

    A: Yes. Ecology is overseeing work to investigate and cleanup the site under the State’s Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA).  More information is available at Ecology’s cleanup web page.

     

    Q: Will the cleanup at the site be affected by the EIS process?

    A: No. Ecology is overseeing work being done to investigate and cleanup the site under the State’s Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). Cleanup efforts at the site are already in progress and are handled separately from the coal export terminal proposal. The EIS will include information about historical and current activities at the site, including the cleanup of contamination.

Q: Why is the Millennium Bulk Terminals proposal going through an environmental review?

A: Millennium Bulk Terminals – Longview (MBTL) LLC, based near Longview, Washington proposes to construct and operate a shipping terminal to export coal at the site of the former Reynolds Aluminum smelter in Cowlitz County. The MBTL proposal is for a facility that would ultimately have the capacity to handle 44 million metric tons of coal annually. The coal would be brought in by rail and exported by ships. In order to construct this facility, Millennium needs to obtain a number of building and environmental permits. Before permit decisions can be made, an environmental review process must occur.

Q: Why are environmental impact statements (EISs) being prepared?

A: The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) require an environmental review before a federal, state, or local agency takes certain types of agency action such as issuing a permit or approving plans. Typically, receipt of a permit application triggers an environmental review. A federal EIS is being prepared for this project, as required by NEPA, and a state EIS is being prepared as required by SEPA. An EIS must be prepared when a lead agency determines a proposal is likely to have significant adverse environmental impacts. The EIS provides comprehensive and objective evaluation of potential environmental impacts, reasonable alternatives, and mitigation measures that could avoid or minimize adverse impacts.

Q: How can I be involved in the EIS process?

A: Public input is a crucial part of the SEPA and NEPA process and there are several opportunities for individuals and organizations to submit their comments on the MBTL proposal. Interested parties including the public, local communities, tribes, and agencies are encouraged to comment in the EIS process in the following ways:

  • During scoping meetings and the scoping comment period from August 16 - November 18, 2013
    (Now Closed).
  • During the SEPA Draft EIS public comment period from April 29, 2016 through June 13, 2016 
    (Now Closed).
  • During the NEPA Draft EIS public comment period from September 30, 2016 through
    November 29, 2016. (Now Closed).
  • During the permit application review processes of agencies.

For more information, please view:

Citizens Guide to SEPA Review

Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA – Having Your Voice Heard

read more

FAQ:

Below are frequently asked questions.

 

For More Information

Throughout the development of the EISs, this website, authorized and managed by the Co-Lead Agencies, will serve as the hub of factual information about the EISs process.

Sign up for email announcements:
MBTL EIS Email List

SEPA Draft EIS Documents

NEPA Draft EIS Documents

Document Library

  • Health Impact Assessment

    What is a Health Impact Assessment (HIA)

    An HIA is defined as a combination of procedures, methods and tools that systematically judges the potential, and sometimes unintended, effects of a proposed program, project, plan, or policy on the health of a population and the distribution of those effects within the population.

    Learn More

  • Proposed Action

    Millennium Bulk Terminals – Longview (MBTL) LLC, based in Longview, Washington proposes to construct and operate a coal export terminal at the site of the former Reynolds Aluminum smelter in Cowlitz County. The MBTL proposal is for a facility that would ultimately have the capacity to handle 44 million metric tons of coal annually.

    Learn More

MILLENNIUM Bulk Terminals-Longview | NEPA / SEPA Environmental Impact Statements

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