Environmental Report Looks At Coal Export Traffic Impacts - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Environmental Report Looks At Coal Export Traffic Impacts

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MISSOULA -

Environmental groups get a small victory on Wednesday, as officials announce they will include Montana in an impact study about increased coal traffic.

A web of debates and controversy travel through the Big Sky State on Montana's train tracks. They all surround a proposal for a coal export terminal in Cherry Point, Washington. The proposed terminal will generate about 18 train trips a day through Montana.

"Even though the terminal, the export terminal, is not being built here, the trains coming through will affect us," said Jeannie Brown of the Northern Plains Resources council.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and two other agencies, will now include Montana and Wyoming in an environmental impact report.

"This should help us understand what those impacts are so the responsible party can at least leave people, as well off as they are now under increased traffic," said Missoula City Councilor Weiner.

The news that Montana will be included in the environmental impact report came as a pleasant surprise to Brown, a Belgrade homeowner, who cares for her disabled granddaughter. She worries the extra train traffic will keep her from getting to emergency services located on the opposite side of the train tracks.

"If I ever have to call 911, because I need to get her to the hospital for an emergency, I'm really concerned for the trains coming through here," she said.

The analysis will include an assessment of how the project would affect human health,  including impacts from related rail and vessel transportation, and an evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions from terminal operations, and rail and vessel traffic. Some people say it's too much.

"I'm disappointed, because it's a strategy of the environmental community to expand every environmental study, and the more you expand, the more exhausting you make it," said President of the Montana Coal Council, Bud Clinch.

He said the extra train loads will require another couple hundred employees, and send another $25 million to $30 million in taxes to the state government.

"We shouldn't turn our backs on opportunity, because of fear brought on by environmental extremists," Clinch said.

Officials said the environmental impact study will take two years. They said the scope of their analysis is preliminary and could change as they do more research.

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