Wash. regulators reject export project

Source: Dylan Brown, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Washington state regulators rejected plans today for building North America’s biggest coal export terminal near the mouth of the Columbia River.

The Washington Department of Ecology denied “with prejudice” a bid for a water pollution permit for the Millennium Bulk Terminals project in Longview.

Backed by coal company Lighthouse Resources Inc., Millennium has spent nearly six years trying to permit the $680 million facility.

The project is the last of a series of coal export proposals stymied by market headwinds and environmental opposition.

In its decision, the agency cited nine problems raised in the project’s final environmental impact statement (E&E News PM, April 28).

“There are simply too many unavoidable and negative environmental impacts for the project to move forward,” department Director Maia Bellon said in a statement.

Building the terminal would require dredging 41.5 acres of riverbed and driving 537 pilings to support two docks. With 1,680 more ships traveling up and down the Columbia, the terminal would represent a quarter of all river traffic.

State regulators said Millennium’s plan for cleaning up the aluminum smelter site on which it wants to build the terminal is still in the works.

The agency also said 16 mile-long coal trains that would rumble through Longview present a traffic problem and also spew diesel exhaust that would create health risks. BNSF Railway has already challenged that finding in federal court (Greenwire, May 15).

Industry and trade groups rallied behind Millennium’s economic promise, but environmentalist opponents stretched from Washington state to the source of coal in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming (Greenwire, June 15).

“The state’s decision to protect their own water on the Columbia also helps protect farm and ranch irrigators like me,” Montana rancher Mark Fix said on behalf of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

Power Past Coal coalition Co-director Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky added, “Washington state and the city of Longview deserve better than empty promises from the dying coal industry.”

Coal exports are up this year, but the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects them to decline next year.

At full capacity, Millennium could have exported more than two-thirds of all the coal that left the U.S. this year, but existing coal ports are already operating at less than a third of their capacity.