State Makes Questionable Finding on Rail Impact of MBT

SEATTLE — Today, after five years of study and review, the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) released a final Environmental Impact Statement on the Millennium Bulk Terminal project in Longview that contains an allegation that the maximum 16 potential train trips (8 trains entering and leaving the facility) providing service to the facility would increase the potential cancer risk for members of a Longview neighborhood. Alliance spokeswoman Mariana Parks released the following statement regarding this allegation – which, was made for the first time in this final EIS:

“By making this allegation today, DOE violates the very methodology of the expansive scope it chose to evaluate the project’s impacts, and instead chose to look in isolation at the alleged impacts of train operations for a specific commodity, ignoring established facts and public data.   Instead, the FEIS has inflated and inaccurate locomotive air emission assumptions that have not been subjected to public review.

DOE’s assertion regarding a maximum 16 train trips is seemingly an indictment against rail service across the state, which transports grain, lumber, Boeing aircraft fuselages, and the consumer products we all rely on every day. BNSF Railway operates the newest fleet of lower emission, fuel efficient locomotives in the US rail industry, and include advanced idle reduction controls. In addition to freight, some 48 Amtrak and Sound Transit Commuter Rail trains operate daily, transporting thousands of people in Central Puget Sound and around the state, using the same or similar locomotives that move freight across the state. That total of 48 passenger trains is scheduled to increase to 56 later this fall.   

So, is DOE suggesting in the FEIS that these trains are also creating an increased risk for anyone near their operation?  To do so ignores the fact that rail is the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient surface transportation mode.  (Freight trains effectively take the equivalent of 280 trucks off the highway, which saves four times the fuel and reduces emissions and highway traffic congestion.)

In addition, as the massive FEIS document for the MBT project was released, the DOE Administrator chose to launch her own Twitter campaign of tweets exclusively highlighting the negative assertions made about the project.  In so doing, she has removed any final veil of attempting to be impartial in evaluating the Millennium Bulk Terminal project.]

The MBT project will do the following good things: it will provide thousands of family wage jobs, millions of dollars of tax revenue, and cleanup of an old industrial site.   We hope the Federal Final EIS will provide a much more grounded, reasoned evaluation of the potential impacts of the project.”