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Scoping Hearings Determine Environmental Impact Statement

coal in washington state Scoping hearings are now being held in our area regarding the Gateway Pacific Terminal. Earlier we wrote about the proposed project to mine coal in Montana, transport it across the country by train to Bellingham, build a terminal there to receive the coal and load it onto the world’s largest tankers that would pass through the waters around the San Juan Islands bound for delivery to China.

The public will never get to vote on this project, but we can all express our concerns about the impact of this project in Public Scoping Hearings. “Scoping” simply means “studying,” and the hearings are to determine what areas are of concern to the public and should be included in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS is the key document that various agencies will use to approve or deny permits for the project.

The period began September 24, and ends on January 21, 2013. Though the hearings are held in WA, ANYONE can submit comments; send email to, or mail your concerns to:

Mr. Randel Perry
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District
Care of: GPT/BNSF Custer Spur EIS Co-Lead Agencies
1100 112th Avenue Northeast, Suite 400
Bellevue, Washington

Visit to learn more about how to write an effective comment, and to get a quick template if you don’t want to take the time to create your own letter. There is a helpful video of Jean Melious, Professor of Environment Studies at Western Washington University, explaining the process. You’ll also find in-depth information, facts on coal trains, dates of hearings, and links to see all the comments that have been submitted to date.

coal in washington state

In a nutshell:

1. Aim comments at environmental impacts. Don’t just say you oppose it – that has no bearing. Rather, keep opinions out and ask to include a specific area of concern in the EIS.
2. You may comment multiple times.
3. When submitting your comments, consider these topics:

  • Traffic (of all sorts) & Parking; noise
  • Movement of people and/or goods
  • Emergency Services
  • Public Service and Utilities
  • Public Health
  • Land and Shoreline Use
  • Aesthetics & “Scenic Resources”
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Historic and Cultural Preservation
  • Agriculture, Plants & Animals
  • Geology and Physical Features of the Earth
  • Air Quality, Water Quality and Public Water Supplies
  • Energy and Natural Resources
  • Environmental Health; Climate (greenhouse gases)
  • Taxpayer investment for infrastructure and upgrades that ultimately benefit privately-held companies
  • Traffic delays (due to spike in rail usage) and effects on jobs and businesses
  • Marine environment
  • Property values and quality of life
  • Direct costs of impacts and who will bear them

4. Outline the specific area of your concern and how you and others would be affected
5. State the significance of those impacts
6. Request an alternative analysis. As an example, what will happen with the land once the coal is removed? What if the coal terminal closes down; what would be done with that site?
7. Request a comprehensive EIS that includes all impacts of mining, transport, shipping, and burning of the coal. Think globally; this project has identifiable physical impacts on the environment on a huge scale and the EIS needs to address the same level of impact.
8. Comments are more effective when they outline how you and others would be affected by the proposal.

“The exploitation of human beings is always accompanied by the exploitation of natural resources, without any thought given to sustainability.” Author, Chris Hedges


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