Coal export terminals denied

Proposed coal export terminals received more bad news today. The Washington Department of Ecology denied a crucial water quality permit sought by Millennium Bulk Terminals to build and operate a 48.5 million tons per year coal export facility in Longview, Washington.

The agency cited the project’s negative impacts on climate, clean air and water. Absent a successful legal challenge to the decision, the denial renders the project formally dead. The decision can be found here.

Millennium would have been the largest coal export facility in North America, sending up to 48.5 million tons of Powder River and Uinta Basin coal annually to Asian markets that are quickly turning away from coal-fired power.

“Today the State of Washington stood up for clean water,” said Mark Fix, past chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council. “The state’s decision to protect their own water on the Columbia also helps protect farm and ranch irrigators like me. In southeastern Montana, coal seams are aquifers. Mining more coal for export would further disrupt our watersheds and lead to more salty water discharged into the rivers and streams we rely on in agriculture. If we don’t have water, we don’t have anything.”

Fix ranches and irrigates downriver of several Montana coal mines in the Powder River Basin.

The state’s analysis found climate pollution from this project would be equivalent to adding 8 million cars to the road at a time when our changing climate is contributing to catastrophic forest fires and stronger hurricanes.

Millennium would also add up to 16 trains a day traveling between the Powder River Basin and Longview, tying up traffic and affecting public safety response times in rail communities across and contributing to higher rates of cancer in low-income communities.

“Toxic diesel emissions, coal dust, and delayed emergency response threaten all of us, but especially young children, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. Low-income and frontline neighborhoods would be hit hardest. As a cancer doctor, I’m acutely aware that, because of today’s decision, we can all breathe easier,” said Dr. Stephen Chandler of Longview.

Earlier this year the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) dealt a major blow to the project when it denied a critical sublease for Millennium to operate on the Columbia River. DNR cited the coal export terminals’s lack of a viable business plan given Asian countries’ steadily declining demand for coal. Millennium sued DNR. Oral arguments in that case are scheduled for Oct. 27. Millennium also needs permits from multiple state agencies, the federal government, and Cowlitz County.

WORC and its member groups participated extensively in the environmental reviews of the port due to the heavy traffic rail impacts on dozens of communities between Wyoming and Longview, as well as the effects of massive new mines on surface and groundwaters in the region.

More on coal exports

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