By Jay Timmons and Herb Krohn, December 12, 2012, The Seattle Times
THERE are many questions being raised about the benefits that new coal-export facilities would bring to the Pacific Northwest, and much of the focus has centered on the environmental impacts of the proposed terminals.
Opponents of the projects would very much like to see new regulations created that would delay job creation and economic growth. We would very much like to see commerce expanded, the environment protected and jobs created through the prompt approval of new export terminals.
Two of the terminals under consideration are in Washington state, one in Longview and one in Bellingham. Federal and state agencies are currently taking questions and concerns about the Bellingham terminal, known as the Gateway Pacific Terminal. Federal and state agencies are conducting a scoping process to identify what should be studied in the environmental review.
To gain approval, these projects must comply with current laws and regulations already on the books. It also means that comprehensive environmental-impact statements will be completed and supervised by state government regulators.
The comprehensive environmental-impact statements must consider virtually every scenario — the impact on land, water and air, as well as social, cultural and economic issues. All meaningful concerns must be identified along with an outline for mitigation, if necessary. It is a recipe that works.
As we have seen over and over again, new and more bureaucratic red tape, as suggested by the opponents of construction, does nothing for the environment. The average comprehensive federal environmental review already takes years of study. Add another new layer and it will have a chilling effect on the region’s export economy, responsible for as many as 40 percent of jobs in the area.
Opponents of these terminals want a more wide-ranging programmatic approach, which gives us pause. If we were considering a proposal to expand aircraft production, would we factor in pollution impact from subcontractors and airplanes after they are put into service?
Both manufacturers and labor leaders oppose more regulations, which the Washington Public Ports Association has called “unprecedented and highly detrimental to the development of freight infrastructure and to Washington’s trade-based economy.” And the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association believes it is “inappropriate” and “irresponsible.”
They are not alone. A recent Oregon Public Broadcasting poll shows that support for the Northwest export terminals runs 2-to-1 among those who have a stated opinion on the issue. Every day, we reach more and more people to clarify misconceptions and answer questions. Our feeling is that support will only grow because voters understand we can create jobs and protect the environment at the same time.
Our alliance grows all the time. We now have more than 40 member organizations, representing nearly 250,000 workers in the Northwest. These workers and their organizations strongly believe that it is possible to build these critical facilities the Northwest way and protect our environment, while creating thousands of jobs and bringing in tax revenues. Increased coal exports in the Pacific Northwest could yield a net economic gain to the national economy of between $2 billion to $6 billion per year, according to the Energy Policy Research Foundation.
The Gateway Pacific Terminal would create 3,500 to 4,400 construction jobs. Operating the terminal would create 294 to 430 permanent direct jobs. Another 860 to 1,250 induced and indirect jobs would be created. These are just the beginning. The Longview and Bellingham facilities would also bring roughly $25 million in tax dollars to local communities.
Our nation’s economy is still in the red zone, and exports will continue to play a major role in helping to turn things around. We urge timely approval of these projects so we can create good-paying jobs and export even more U.S. products.