LONGVIEW, Wash., Oct. 4, 2017 - The Washington Department of Ecology denied Millennium Bulk Terminals’ request for a water quality permit to construct and operate the largest coal export terminal in North America near Longview, Wash. To proceed with terminal construction, Millennium needed to fill wetlands and dredge the Columbia River bed – actions which require a state water quality certification under the federal Clean Water Act. The department said Millennium’s permit application failed to prove it would comply with Washington’s clean water laws.

Bill Chapman, president and CEO, Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, said the state agency’s decision was wrong.  

“Ecology appears to have intentionally disregarded decades of law defining the Clean Water Act to reject the water quality certification requested for Millennium’s project,” he said in a statement. “Multiple recent decisions by the agency seem biased against the Longview community, and particularly blind to the need for employment opportunities in Cowlitz County. Just over a year ago, Ecology approved a water quality decision for another Washington facility handling the same type and quantity of coal.”

In denying the permit, Ecology said the export terminal would have caused significant and unavoidable harm to nine environmental areas: air quality, vehicle traffic, vessel traffic, rail capacity, rail safety, noise pollution, social and community resources, cultural resources, and tribal resources.

The Millennium project was one of six coal export terminals proposed – and rejected -- in the Northwest over the past decade to serve Asia’s energy demand with coal mined in Montana and Wyoming. The Sierra Club was one of several groups opposed to the export terminals.

“This is a victory for everyone who would have been caught in the destructive path of coal exports, but also those who are suffering the real impacts of climate change,” said Celia Kearns, deputy regional director for the Sierra Club's ‘Beyond Coal’ campaign. “With every single coal export proposal in the Northwest denied or abandoned, we hope Northwest community leaders can now turn our attention to cultivating sustainable economic opportunities.” The Sierra Club reported that if built, Millennium would have been the largest coal export facility in North America, sending up to 44 million tons of coal per year to Asian markets.

The state Department of Ecology found that the coal terminal would have increased diesel pollution and caused an increase in cancer risk rates in a neighborhood along the rail line in Longview. Additional environmental repercussions are detailed in the project’s environmental impact statement published in April.

“Millennium will appeal the decision expecting a fairer and more consistent interpretation of the law,” said Chapman. “We remain confident in our judicial system, where the facts will be interpreted in an unbiased manner and this water quality certification will be granted.” The company has until late October to appeal Ecology’s decision to the state Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office.

Start your day with the Agri-Pulse Daily Harvest Email. Sign up for a four-week free trial by clicking here!