State ecology department denies permit to Millennium Bulk Terminals; Supporters say ruling is arbitrary and plan to appeal

Earlier today we wrote of the importance of the Millennium Bulk Terminals project to energy security in Japan, a demonstration of the projects positive global reach. Now, we read in the Seattle Times that the state Department of Ecology has denied MBT a critical permit

The Washington State Department of Ecology has denied a key permit for the Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview, a decision that if it withstands appeal would kill the last remaining proposal in the state to export Western coal to Asia.

The department denied the permit due to the harm it would cause nine environmental areas, including rail safety, air pollution, noise pollution and tribal resources. “There are simply too many unavoidable and negative environmental impacts for the project to move forward,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon, in a statement released Tuesday…

The department’s decision denies Millennium a state water-quality permit needed to fill 24 acres of wetlands and dredge 41.5 acres of the Columbia’s riverbed, according to the department statement.

 Project supporters were quick to respond. The Keep Washington Competitive coalition gathered comments from business, trade and labor leaders. Among them,

“This is not how you attract business to a state, let alone one that thrives on trade,” said John Stuhlmiller, CEO of the Washington Farm Bureau. “We have a regulatory process in place for a reason, and when the state not only changes the rules mid-stream, but completely abandons the process, that’s evidence the process was flawed from the outset, and that is a very troubling precedent for any future investors looking to do business in Washington state.”

And,

Lee Newgent, executive secretary of the Washington State Building & Construction Trades Council, said Ecology has acted in bad faith. “There are no guarantees in life, but you would expect the state to live up to its end of the deal in something like this by running a fair and timely process…” said Newgent. “The state, by its actions, has effectively negated any hope of major infrastructure projects in along the Columbia River and other parts of Washington state…”

Also comments from leaders of the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, including this:

“Today’s announcement by Director Maia Bellon and the Department of Ecology lays bare the real regulatory process in Washington state is political theater engineered to fit a specific narrative while denying thousands of jobs to people most in need in our state,” said Mike Bridges, president, Longview/Kelso Building Trades.

The ANJE press release says,

Millennium Bulk Terminals is planning to appeal the decision by Ecology Director Bellon to the State of Washington’s Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office. While this appeal is underway, other permits necessary for Millennium Bulk Terminal’s approval, including the Shorelines permit continue through their regular public comment process.

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. We called it progress and added,

Clearly, there’s still a long road ahead, but this permit may represent a turnaround.

That long road just got a little longer. But the journey is far from finished.