Portland is exploring its power to regulate the coal industry as the business looks to expand in the Northwest.
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz has drafted a proposal that would put Portland on the record opposing coal export shipments traveling along rail lines within city limits until more is known about the possible health and environmental effects of those shipments.
Fritz is seeking re-election to the Council. Northwest politicians at the local, state and federal levels have been raising the issue and calling for additional study of the impact coal trains could have on traffic, human health the economy and the environment.
Fritz says her resolution is in response to community concern. Her resolution calls on the rail companies to give proper public notification of any expansion in rail traffic.
It also asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement. That’s a technical term for a complete in-depth study, typically conducted over a period of years. Fritz’s request asks specifically for an “area-wide” EIS, incorporating projects across the region.
The corps sometimes conducts what’s called an environmental assessment. That’s less in-depth than the impact statement, and would take less time. Fritz says the latter is not acceptable.
“We want an environmental impact statement rather than an environmental assessment because that allows more pubic input. We know this is an issue people care about on all sides,” Fritz says.