Poll backed by industry, union shows support for Northwest terminals

By Manuel Quinones, Environment & Energy reporter
November 29, 2012

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM ENVIRONMENT & ENERGY PUBLISHING, LLC. NOT FOR REPUBLICATION BY WYOMING MEDIA.

— An industry-union group is touting a new poll showing voters back proposed coal-export terminals in the Pacific Northwest.

The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports said the poll shows almost 55 percent of Oregon voters and almost 57 percent of Washington voters support the terminals.

“Voters know what we know — new bulk shipping terminals and coal exports will put people back to work, will generate badly needed revenues for government services, and can be developed in an environmentally responsible manner,” union leaders wrote in a memo outlining the poll numbers.

Opponents of the terminals — including environmental groups, many local politicians and health advocates — are calling for a broad, regional review of the potential cumulative impact of the proposals before any of them can proceed (Greenwire, June 29).

But the new poll shows 74 percent of voters in Oregon and 78 percent in Washington favor individual permit reviews. And 80 percent of those polled in both states say increased rail and barge traffic is a positive sign of economic growth. Boosters say the new numbers confirm previous surveys (Greenwire, July 27).

Gallatin Public Affairs conducted the poll Sept. 26-27, reaching out to 500 likely voters in Washington with a 4.4-point error margin and 400 likely voters in Oregon with a 4.9-point error margin. The coalition did not release the poll’s questions or the geographic spread of people surveyed.

A foe of the coal terminals, Kimberly Larson of the Power Past Coal campaign, said Gallatin has worked on behalf of Millennium Bulk Terminals, a company backing one of the proposed export facilities. She also said people who live near areas affected by potential increases in barge and train traffic may have a more negative perspective on the projects than others.

While industry leaders say they expect international markets to rebound, a recent slowdown forced layoffs at Alaska’s Seward Coal Terminal, an executive with Usibelli Coal Mine Inc. confirmed.

The Alaska Railroad Corp. and Aurora Energy Services LLC, other companies involved with the Seward terminal, are also in litigation with environmentalists over airborne coal dust at Resurrection Bay. The case is pending in Alaska U.S. District Court.

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