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Article: Scope of Corps' coal port review unclear - Helena Independent Record

Jun 22nd, 2012

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Gov. Matt Mead said Friday that he returned from China this week confident that Wyoming should continue exploring how to export coal to meet that nation's growing demand.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has replied to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber regarding the potential scope of its environmental review of expansive new ports on the West Coast, but it remains unclear whether the Corps will include reviews of the impacts of increased coal train traffic through Montana.

The Helena City Commission and Missoula City Council have both asked the Corps to consider impacts of increased train traffic through those cities should the abundant coal from Wyoming and eastern Montana make its way to Asian markets by way of the proposed ports. The Corps told Kitzhaber June 8 it will conduct analysis beyond the ports themselves “only where the Corps determined that extension to be appropriate under its (National Environmental Policy Act) regulations and other relevant authorities.”

Industry group Count on Coal Montana said this means the Corps is unlikely to conduct an “expansive” Environmental Impact Statement that might address impacts in Montana.

“The good news is that the Army Corps of Engineers is following the law and conducting their EIS specific to the impacts of the terminal construction,” Chuck Denowh, spokesman for the group, said in a statement. “The bad news is that the damage is done — the city councils in Helena and Missoula have wasted taxpayer money in tilting at this windmill, and they’ve diverted their attention from other issues in their communities.”

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