OPINION: Coal impact study needed

Allison Roberts News

More than 800 people turned out for Spokane’s public hearing on coal export last December, some from as far away as Eastern Montana. The vast majority of them called on the government to study the full range of potential impacts of plans to make the Northwest a conveyor belt for 100 million tons of coal every year from mines in Montana and Wyoming to the West Coast.

The hundreds of people who came out in Spokane were joined by thousands more at hearings across the region in a show of public concern that state agencies called “unprecedented” in the history of permitting major development projects in Washington.

In announcing last week that it won’t consider the full range of effects of coal export, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to acknowledge the risks facing people living in dozens of cities and towns along the rail shipping route from Billings to Bellingham; communities that, like Spokane, will see little if any benefit, but bear many of the health, transportation and economic costs.

With our federal government refusing to take a comprehensive, region-wide approach, we need Gov. Jay Inslee and other state leaders in Washington and Oregon to take a much more active role.

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