SEATTLE — Six Western states and national industry groups have lined up against Washington state in a legal battle over its decision to reject permits for a massive proposed coal-export terminal on the Columbia River.
Wyoming, Montana, Kansas, Utah, South Dakota and Nebraska filed a joint amicus brief, arguing in support of project backers and saying the case has broad implications for the export of commodities that are important to many states.
Utah-based Lighthouse Resources, which operates coal mines in Montana and Wyoming, sued Washington state in federal court in January, alleging officials violated federal laws in denying approvals for its $680 million Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview project. The company accuses the governor and state regulators of being anti-coal and discriminating against it by blocking the movement of coal mined in other states from being exported.
The Washington Department of Ecology denied the project a water-quality permit last fall, saying there were too many major harmful impacts including air pollution, rail safety and vehicle traffic.
The project would move coal mined in U.S. Western states through a terminal in Longview for export to South Korea, Japan and other Asian markets. The facility on the Columbia River would handle up 44 million metric tons, boosting U.S. exports to foreign markets.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said in a statement that “politicians in Washington State have again demonstrated their willingness to hold coal states hostage.”
In a legal brief filed Tuesday, Montana and the other states argue: “Today it is coal, tomorrow it could be natural gas or non-organic produce. The interests of interior states in developing foreign trade are now subject to the barriers erected by the policy whims of states that control access to international markets through their ports.”
Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee, said Thursday the state doesn’t comment on pending litigation but “we are confident that the state’s position is solid.”
Inslee, a Democrat, has made climate change a key issue and has pushed to move the state away from coal toward renewable resources.