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Peabody's plans heighten environmental opposition to Washington coal port

Dodgy deals
By Peter Gartrell | Washington, Mar 2 2011

Environmental groups have lashed out at a proposed coal terminal near Bellingham, Washington, through which Peabody Energy said Monday it plans to haul as much as 24 million mt/year of US coal to Asian power plants.

The opposition to the Gateway Pacific Terminal project proposed by SSA Marine is similar to that of Millennium Bulk Terminals, a smaller coal terminal planned in the southern part of the state. Environmental groups there recently appealed the project's first major development permit over climate change concerns.

"We're definitely going to be fully involved and working closely" on opposing the Gateway project, Ross MacFarlane, senior adviser for Climate Solutions, said Wednesday. His environmental group is also involved in the Millennium appeal. "I can't say whether or not there will be legal cases -- but we will be very involved."

A coalition of four additional groups issued a statement opposing the project following Peabody's announcement that it had agreed to ship coal through the $500 million coal terminal. The groups raised issues ranging from climate change impacts of burning coal in Asian power plants to public health implications of increased coal dust, as well as day-to-day concerns of seeing as many as nine mile-long coal trains crawl through town.

The SSA Marine project has been contemplated for more than a decade along an area of Bellingham Bay known as Cherry Point, which currently houses a major BP oil refinery.

But while the project had long been promoted as a multi-use facility, the focus shifted to coal Monday when Peabody said it had rights to throughput at the facility and SSA Marine acknowledged that up to 48 million mt of coal could be handled annually by the terminal.


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