Two Millennium coal project shoreline permits denied

Cowlitz County official goes against recommendations

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LONGVIEW — In a huge blow to the proposed Longview coal dock, a Cowlitz County hearing examiner has denied two major shoreline permits that Millennium Bulk Terminals needs for its $680 million project.

Hearing Examiner Mark Scheibmeir rejected the permits Tuesday in spite of recommendations from Cowlitz County staff that he approve the permits under several conditions.

Scheibmeir wrote in his decision that Millennium could not show that it would adequately compensate for 10 significant adverse impacts identified in the state’s environmental impact statement. The state Department of Ecology cited nine of those 10 impacts as reasoning to deny a water quality permit for the terminal in September. Those nine areas include: vehicle traffic, vessel traffic, rail capacity, rail safety, noise pollution, social and community resources, cultural resources and tribal resources.

Scheibmeir added a tenth impact — greenhouse gas emissions — when the company said it could not mitigate for all the emissions generated as result of its project. A cradle-to-grave analysis estimated that the terminal would increase global greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million metric tons annually, according to the environmental impact statement.

Millennium will appeal the decision to the state’s shoreline hearing board.

“The decision is based primarily on issues outside the shoreline area applicable to any new terminal or transportation project in the State of Washington,” said Bill Chapman, Millennium CEO, in a prepared statement. “Not allowing Millennium to use this industrial shoreline for a bulk materials terminal simply because there will be more trains on the tracks and more vessels on the Columbia River, makes a bold statement that there is no industrial or port use for this site, or for any other industrial port site in Cowlitz County or anywhere else on the Columbia River System.”

Chapman pointed out that the former Reynolds Co.-site has historically been used for industrial purposes and “had extensive train traffic and vessel traffic in the past.”

Opponents argued that Millennium doesn’t have a clear path forward in light of Schiebmier’s decision and other recent permit denials from the state.

“This decision marks the fourth time that Millennium’s coal export proposal failed to meet local and state laws,” stated Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, co-director of the Power Past Coal Coalition, in a press release. “Millennium faces insurmountable hurdles, and the company should end their coal export aspirations today.”

Tuesday’s decision is the latest in a string of setbacks for the coal terminal, which has been in the permitting process for six years. Before it can built its dock, Millennium must win its appeal of the state Department of Ecology’s denial of a key water quality permit. It must also obtain a total of 23 permits from local, state and federal agencies.

One sign of hope for company officials came earlier this month when a Cowlitz County judge found that the state was arbitrary and capricious when it denied a sublease needed for a coal dock. Yet Millennium will still have to bargain a compromise before it can actually get the sublease.