Washington state deals blow to plan for coal export terminal

A company that wants to build and operate a large terminal to export coal from the western U.S. to Asia was denied a key permit by Washington state on Tuesday because of environmental concerns.

The Department of Ecology rejected a water quality permit that Millennium Bulk Terminals sought because the proposed facility near the city of Longview would have caused “significant and unavoidable harm” to the environment. The department cited effects to air quality, noise pollution and tribal resources, among others.

“There are simply too many unavoidable and negative environmental effects for the project to move forward,” Ecology Director Maia Bellon said in a statement.

Millennium Bulk Terminals has long hoped to build a facility along the Columbia River to handle up to 44 million tons of coal a year. Trains would carry the coal from Montana, Wyoming and other states, which would be loaded onto ships headed to Asia.

William Chapman, the president and CEO of Millennium, said the company will appeal the decision and expects “a fairer and more consistent interpretation of the law.”

“Multiple recent decisions by the agency seem biased against the Longview community, and particularly blind to the need for employment opportunities in Cowlitz County,” he said in a written statement.

Environmentalists, tribes and others have fiercely opposed the project — which could increase U.S. exports of coal by 40 percent — because of concerns about global warming, coal dust pollution and potential damage to fisheries on the river. Several of those groups lauded Tuesday’s decision.

“The state did the right thing today, standing up for clean water, public health and the Pacific Northwest’s iconic endangered salmon runs,” Power Past Coal co-director Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky said in a statement.

Businesses, some labor groups and other supporters say the project would create jobs, add tax revenue and boost the local economy. The governor of Wyoming, the nation’s leading coal-producing state, previously traveled to the Pacific Northwest to pitch the importance of coal exports to the governors of Washington and Oregon.

Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, criticized the process that led to the decision, saying that the project has faced “unprecedented regulatory hurdles.”

“We need companies to invest in manufacturing, construction and infrastructure to support trade,” he wrote in a prepared statement. “Instead of turning away investment,…

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