Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


Ross Taylor


The Millennium Bulk Terminal in Longview, Washington, is one of several proposed locations along the west coast of the United States for a large export facility, which would allow large-scale exportation of domestic coal to Asia. The Millennium Bulk Terminal proposal has garnered significant opposition, yet attention is only recently turning to the specific concern over greenhouse gas emissions associated with such a project. This concern stems not just from operation of the facility or transportation to and from it but from the possibly damaging amount of emissions that would result from the coal’s ultimate consumption in Asia. Implicated by the proposal are both the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and Washington’s State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA). Both NEPA and SEPA apply when proposals requiring government approval involve “major actions significantly affecting the quality of the environment.” Compliance with these statutes requires in prescribed situations the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The complication presented by the Millennium Bulk Terminal proposal is that the ultimate consumption of coal exported would be extraterritorial. Applying NEPA extraterritorially with regard to greenhouse gas emissions raises questions of standing, international commerce, politics, and science. This Comment will primarily discuss how the proximate impacts of exporting coal bring the Millennium Bulk Terminal proposal within the scope of NEPA and SEPA. It will then evaluate the impact of exported coal on the economy and the possibility of domestic pollution as a result of foreign coal consumption. Next explored will be the statutes specifically focusing on territorial limitations, as well as guidance documents issued by government agencies. Recent cases will be examined to determine how the courts are currently addressing extraterritorial elements of an EIS. This Comment provides facts, laws, legal guidelines, and persuasive reasons to consider foreign coal consumption part of the EIS process for the Millennium Bulk Terminal proposal.

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