Editorial, labor and civic support for energy projects, Millennium Bulk Terminals and Vancouver Energy

The environmental impact statement on the Millennium Bulk Terminals project released last week by the state Department of Ecology has generated expressions of support for the project. Last week, we noted business concerns with the unprecedented scope of the environmental review. 

“This is truly an unprecedented application of the SEPA process, which was designed to mitigate for impacts near a project’s site and within the state of Washington,” said AWB President Kris Johnson. “This sets a troubling precedent. At a time when we’re competing in a global marketplace, employers need certainty and predictability. Regulatory decisions like this only exacerbate the review process, especially for areas of the state in need of job growth and economic development.”

The Daily News editorial board agrees

After five years and $15 million, the final state EIS is disappointing because it appears the state has strayed from its mission. It’s not the state’s job to pick a side during the permitting process of any business, but it certainly looks like it did on the Millennium project.

From the start of the permitting process, the state Department of Ecology was against the Millennium project. Anytime it takes five years to get a final environmental impact statement completed it’s pretty clear the state dragged its feet at every turn.

In addition to the extended time frame, another example of the state working against the Millennium project was the scope. The initial scope of the environmental assessment changed after the process started. In other words, after agreeing on the scope of the examination, the state changed the rules in the middle of the game.

The editorial goes into some detail and is worth your time. They cite the extraordinary standards applied to the project.

What other business has been asked to mitigate the carbon emissions of other companies? What other business has been asked to mitigate for carbon emissions across the globe in other countries?

Other than Millennium, none that we know of.

An op-ed in the Seattle Times by Mike Bridges, president of the Longview/Kelso Building Trades, IBEW Local 48, and Mike Wallin, a Longview-area real estate agent and a member of the Longview City Council, explains to residents of the prosperous Seattle metro area the importance of the project to a struggling manufacturing community.

Longview is a working-class town built on the natural resources industry with a deep-water port on the Columbia River. Our town has weathered multiple economic downturns. Fortunately, we have a well-established industrial area that is still home to a handful of major global manufacturers who rely on the port to export everything from forest products to agricultural commodities. And now we are looking to add coal to that export mix…

We do this with our eyes wide open, knowing that people in countries like Japan and South Korea need energy resources from a stable political ally to supplement alternatives like natural gas from Russia, or intermittent resources like wind and solar.

We also do this knowing that a new export terminal would bring 2,650 new jobs to an area of the state eager to put people back to work. Our unemployment rates speak volumes, as do the large number of our families who have to rely on free-and-reduced lunches in our schools each day.

In addition, the Keep Washington Competitive coalition issued a press release announcing labor leaders’ support for the energy projects.

Thirty representatives of 20 different labor unions signed a letter delivered to Gov. Inslee’s office Thursday, asking for his support of Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview and Vancouver Energy at the Port of Vancouver. The letter notes:

We believe both of these projects are vital to our state’s workforce training needs, and to the communities where they live and work. Millennium Bulk Terminals and Vancouver Energy will provide critically needed, family-age, union jobs and tax revenue for state and local governments. For these reasons and more, we support Millennium and Vancouver Energy, and encourage your support of both projects.

Vancouver Energy is 

a joint venture of Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies. Tesoro – a port tenant since 1985 – and Savage have proposed leasing 42 acres at the port for a crude oil distribution facility that would include a rail unloading facility, storage tanks, and a vessel loading area. The project would bring up to 360,000 barrels of North American crude oil by rail to the port daily, where it would then be loaded into U.S.-built, U.S.-flagged, and U.S.-staffed marine vessels for shipment to refineries in Alaska, California and Washington.

We’ve written often of the prosperity divide between the metro Seattle urban core and much of the rest of the state. How the state handles the permitting of these projects will make a difference to the economies of the affected communities and send a message to other manufacturers and exporters considering expansion in our state. 

Worth watching.