Company sues Wash. over blocked export project

Source: Dylan Brown, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 4, 2018

A coal company yesterday sued the state of Washington for blocking a proposed export terminal on the West Coast.

Lighthouse Resources Inc. — the Utah-based company behind the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview — sued Gov. Jay Inslee (D), state Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

“It’s no secret that Washington state officials are philosophically opposed to coal,” Lighthouse President and CEO Everett King said in a statement. “But that does not give them legal authority to discriminate against this project and block foreign trade and interstate commerce.”

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, accuses state officials of illegally and unreasonably denying several permits for turning a former aluminum smelter site into a 44-million-ton coal shipping facility.

Lighthouse wants to build the terminal to ship coal from its mines in Montana and Wyoming to Asia.

But state regulators have denied necessary permits for the project, supported by local elected officials and vehemently opposed by environmental groups.

In September, the state Department of Ecology rejected a water pollution permit, citing “too many unavoidable and negative environmental impacts” (E&E News PM, Sept. 26, 2017).

The state’s Department of Natural Resources, which Franz oversees, also denied a request for a sublease, then denied a request to update aquatic lands permits needed to expand the docks located on the banks of Columbia River (E&E News PM, Oct. 26, 2017).

In its lawsuit, Lighthouse says state officials strayed from normal permitting procedures.

“They have, among other things, improperly expanded the scope of their environmental review, arbitrarily and capriciously declined to approve a sublease, and illegally refused to grant a … water quality certification based on alleged effects that are exclusively within federal jurisdiction,” the complaint states.

Washington officials have pointed back to nine areas of “unavoidable and significant adverse impacts” (E&E News PM, April 28, 2017).

Lighthouse’s King says anti-coal ideology is blocking the chance to “create U.S. jobs, shrink the U.S. trade deficit, and reduce carbon emissions.”

The lawsuit alleges state officials are violating the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause and federal laws governing interstate and international trade.