The Washington Department of Ecology has thrown a wrench into Millennium Bulk Terminals’ hopes of building the largest coal export terminal in North America, possibly killing a plan that would add 16 slow-moving, 1.3-mile-long coal trains to Camas-Washougal rail lines each day.
The state DOE this week denied a water quality permit sought by Millennium Bulk Terminals to construct a coal export terminal on a 190-acre site in Longview, Washington.
If approved, the project would bring 44 million tons of coal to Washington State each year, via trains bringing coal from Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado and delivering it to the Longview export terminal. From Longview, the coal would be shipped on boats, adding 1,680 new vessel trips to the Columbia River each year — nearly 25 percent of all Columbia River traffic.
According to a DOE press release, the department denied the permit because they felt the terminal would cause “significant and unavoidable harm to nine environmental areas” including air quality, vehicle and vessel traffic, rail capacity and safety, noise pollution, and cultural, social and tribal resources.
“After extensive study and deliberation, I am denying Millennium’s proposed coal export project,” Ecology Director Maia Bellon stated in the press release. “There are simply too many unavoidable and negative environmental impacts for the project to move forward.”
To proceed with the coal terminal plan, Millennium needs to fill wetland areas and dredge the nearby riverbed. To do this, the company first needs to garner the necessary water permits.
The company could appeal the DOE’s decision to the state’s Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office.
An environmental report on the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal-by-rail project released in April found “adverse impacts” in 19 of the 23 environmental study areas.
The in-depth report, completed by Cowlitz County and the Washington Department of Ecology, relied on scientific methods, computer models and data to evaluate potential environmental impacts of the proposed coal-by-rail terminal.
The report found that the coal terminal project would lead to: An increase in locomotive diesel particulate matter, a toxic air pollutant, which “is expected to cause an unavoidable increase in cancer risk rates in a neighborhood along the rail line in Longview, (Washington);” traffic jams during peak commute times in Cowlitz County due to slow-moving trains; and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions by about 2 million metric tons due to transporting the coal and burning it overseas.
Cowlitz Indian Tribe opposes terminal, applauds DOE decision
Leaders from the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, which has a reservation in Clark County near La Center, said Tuesday that they applauded the DOE’s decision, calling the Millennium application for a water quality permit “the most recent in a string of poorly executed permit applications submitted by the company … based on their assumed science without completing the necessary field work to support their conclusions,” and saying the proposed permit did not address the company’s true impacts and “in some cases, may harm the fish more than it helps.”
Cowlitz Chairman William Iyall said: “We thank the Department of Ecology for protecting the people of Washington State. The Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export facility has posed a great threat to our people, our food resources including salmon, and to our communities.”
Tribal leaders said Tuesday in a press release that the Cowlitz Indian Tribe “is committed to restoring our sacred resources … to restoring rivers, forests and food for our people and all people,” and that the proposed Millennium coal terminal project threatened the tribe’s “way of life, culture and subsequently our future generations’ right to the use and enjoyment of natural resources within our homelands.”
The tribe added that they believe the coal terminal project is “incompatible with social and environmental responsibility” and said state approval in light of climate change issues “would be detrimental … towards restoration and sustainability of resources that (are) iconic to the Northwest United States.”