HOQUIAM, Wash. (AP) — Regional railroad operator RailAmerica told Port of Grays Harbor commissioners Tuesday that it is shelving current plans to build a coal storage and export facility at the port's Terminal 3 in Hoquiam.
The company now believes there are other uses for the terminal that are more likely to generate jobs, tax revenues and business for the port and for the company, said Gary Lewis, RailAmerica senior vice president.
The Daily World reported (http://is.gd/mwryuc) that company spokesman Paul Queary said RailAmerica was shelving the Terminal 3 coal export project because there is a third party interested in shipping something else from the terminal in a project that could progress more quickly than a coal terminal.
RailAmerica had said it was interested in possibly shipping 5 million tons of coal annually.
In recent months, projects have been proposed for a half dozen ports in Oregon and Washington to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to markets in Asia. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Seattle City Council are among those expressing concern about possible environmental effects.
A group called Citizens for a Clean Harbor has opposed any use of the terminal for coal shipments.
Arnie Martin of Hoquiam, one of the group's co-founders, suggested the company may have recognized the possibility of "multi-year delays" in the siting process because of potential lawsuits. Still, he was suspicious that the coal proposal might be revived later.
"So we're not stopping yet," Martin said, noting the group plans to remain active in opposing any coal export terminals in the Northwest. "There's still plenty to worry about," he said.
"We agree with Rail America that there are other opportunities which will create more jobs and more enduring economic benefits for the community," said Becky Kelley of the Power Past Coal coalition, described as an alliance of health, environmental, clean-energy, faith and community groups working to stop coal export off the West Coast.
The Port of Grays Harbor and RailAmerica still remain partners in finding new employment opportunities for the county, said Gary Nelson, port executive director. Lewis told the commissioners that the railroad has received several other inquiries about the terminal while studying the site.
He noted that RailAmerica currently is in the process of being acquired by another rail company. Genesee & Wyoming, another short-line holding company, has a pending $1.39 billion offer for RailAmerica.
Kitzhaber has called for federal officials to study the environmental impacts of the coal export proposals, saying he's concerned about the effects of coal dust and additional train traffic between mines and ports — and from burning more coal in developing countries.
In May, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the development of coal export terminals in Washington state after raising concerns about increased train traffic and potential harm to health and the environment from transporting coal across the state.
Information from: The Daily World, http://www.thedailyworld.com