Coal Export Projects

If built, the terminals would have resulted in dozens of additional, fully loaded coal trains traveling through the Columbia Gorge each day

Coal Export Projects
A fully loaded coal train travels through the eastern Gorge, where toxic coal dust from passing coal trains lines the river bank and pollutes the Columbia River and Horsethief Lake. (photographer: Kathy Fors)

Due to public and tribal opposition, along with declining coal markets, the number of proposals to export coal through the Pacific Northwest to Asia has declined from an original seven to just one, in British Columbia. The remaining project would result in a single additional, fully loaded coal train traveling the Columbia River Gorge each day.

Update, Status of Projects:

May 2017

Millennium Bulk Terminals - Longview, WA

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Tesoro Savage oil terminal proposal was released by the Washington Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County. In the FEIS, the agencies have determined that the project would cause multiple significant, adverse impacts to both the environment and communities in the Columbia River basin. The FEIS is used to decide whether to issue or deny permits to Millennium. The findings mean that Ecology and Cowlitz County should deny Millennium’s permit applications. Any other outcome would be scientifically and legally unsupported.

January 2017

Millennium Bulk Terminals – Longview, WA

This proposal to transport 44 million tons of coal per year through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (NSA) in open-topped coal cars to a terminal on the Columbia River in Longview, WA likely met its end on January 3, 2017, when the Washington Department of Natural Resources denied a sublease from the project applicants for state-owned aquatic lands in the Columbia River adjacent to the proposed coal terminal. DNR has broad authority to grant or deny subleases.

Previously, in 2010-11, the applicants were caught lying to state regulators about the size and scope of the project and were forced to reapply and undergo extensive environmental review. On April 29, 2016, the long-awaited draft environmental impact statement was issued, followed by a 45-day comment period and three public hearings; by the end of that period, over 257,000 comments had been submitted, the vast majority of them opposing the project.

Reviewing agencies for this project included Cowlitz County, the Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources and Army Corps of Engineers. The project was opposed by several tribes in the Columbia Basin and SW Washington, local governments throughout the region, hundreds of health care providers and thousands of citizens in Washington.

Read the Power Past Coal coalition's (of which Friends is a member) talking points regarding the Millennium terminal DEIS.

DENIED: Gateway Pacific Terminal – Cherry Point, WA

On May 9, 2016 the Army Corps of Engineers denied this project based on the determination that it would result in major violations of the Lummi Nations tribal treaty rights.  Peabody Coal and SSA Marine had proposed to transport 48 million tons of coal per year by rail through the Columbia River Gorge NSA in open coal cars to an export terminal in Cherry Point, WA.  The project, which would have been the largest in the United States, faced stiff environmental hurdlers and  broad-based opposition. The Lummi Nation opposed the project on the grounds that it violated the Tribe’s 1855 treaty that assured the Tribe’s rights to fish in its usual and accustomed places in perpetuity.  The project would have destroyed cultural resources and disrupted tribal fishing.  The denial of the permit is a huge victory for the Lummi Nation and its many allies, including Friends and the Power Past Coal coalition, who supported the protection of their treaty rights and opposed this massive terminal proposal.


(Graphic courtesy of Sightline Institute; statistic includes the amount of coal that would have been shipped to the defeated Gateway Pacific terminal.)

Westshore Coal Terminal (capacity building)
Location: Vancouver, BC
Developer: Westshore Terminals Ltd.
Coal: 4 million tons per year
Trains: 2 per day (includes loaded and unloaded)

Millennium Bulk Terminals (denied January 3, 2017)
Location: Longview, WA
Developer: Arch Coal and Lighthouse Capital
Coal: 44 million tons per year
Trains: 18 per day (includes loaded and unloaded)

Gateway Pacific Terminal (denied May 9, 2016)
Location: Cherry Point, near Bellingham, WA
Developers: SSA Marine, Peabody Energy
Coal: 48 million tons per year (would have been the largest in the U.S.)
Trains: 22 per day (includes loaded and unloaded)

The Gateway Pacific coal terminal proposal at Cherry Point, WA elicited strong opposition from the Lummi Tribe, which argued that the terminal would violate treaty rights due to its proximity to Xwe’chi’eXen, an ancestral village site and fishing waters. (Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission photo)


Power Past Coal coalition, of which Friends is a member
Columbia Gorge Climate Action Network
Articles about coal export by Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based nonprofit think tank 

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