Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview’s lawsuit claims the state Department of Ecology violated federal and state laws when it denied the project a water quality certification last month.
The lawsuit filed in Cowlitz County Superior Court alleges the denial was based on “biased and prejudiced decision-making.”
The export terminal has faced uncommon – even unprecedented – regulatory hurdles from the outset, as we noted here. And here we wrote that the project, after an arduous journey, had finally received its first permit last July.
Millennium CEO Bill Chapman announced Tuesday the company is not only appealing that decision but also suing the agency and its director, Maia Bellon, over a permitting process that has gone “off the rails.”
“What we’re doing here is putting a spotlight on a process that has gone awry,” Chapman said. “The state’s main environmental regulatory agency is trampling over its own fact-finding in order to deny a project that is capable of meeting all applicable environmental standards.”
Supporters of the project say the state’s water quality permit denial is an indication that the state has become hostile to fossil fuel businesses that would bring much needed jobs.
“The vast majority of our manufacturing and agricultural products all move by rail throughout the state,” said Mariana Parks of the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports. “Are we to assume those products will endure the same level of scrutiny now? This sets a bad precedent for all future projects in our state.”
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State Rep. Jim Walsh (R-19) expressed his disappointment with the department’s decision to deny the project for reasons unrelated to water quality.
“The Washington Department of Ecology seems determined to oppose any industrial development in Cowlitz County, and rest of the 19th Legislative District,” he said in a recent op-ed.
A press release from the Keep Washington Competitive coalition has responses from key business and labor leaders, including the Association of Washington Business.
Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, said Ecology has compromised the state’s regulatory process to a point that it is difficult for projects to receive a fair and timely hearing.
“Frankly, this is not the kind of business climate we want here in Washington state. We need clear permit guidelines and timely reviews. We’ve seen neither in the case of Millennium, where the project is now extending into its fifth year of review,” said Johnson. “Agency overreach sends the wrong message to potential investors and jeopardizes future employment opportunities, particularly in areas of the state in dire need of an economic boost. We support Millennium in its appeal going forward.”
The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports also supports MBT.
“Ecology’s denial of Millennium’s water permit tipped its hand and showed the process for what it really is: a political drama with a pre-determined outcome,” said Alliance spokeswoman Mariana Parks. “When Ecology denied Millennium its water quality permit earlier this month, it did so based on everything but water quality criteria. If this is the precedent that Ecology seeks to establish, then any other commodity could be denied a permit for equally capricious reasons.”
As we’ve written before, Washington often presents a challenging regulatory climate. The MBT legal challenge will be an important action to follow.