Millennium Coal Terminal Litigation

Millennium Coal Terminal Litigation
Millennium Bulk Terminals' proposal to build the nation's largest coal export terminal would have brought 44 million tons of coal per year in uncovered coal trains through the Columbia River Gorge. (photographer: Kathy Fors)

Coal companies and developers are suing state and county officials after being denied key permits to build the nation’s largest coal export terminal.

 

Status update: 2018 – Project denied key permits; permit denials in litigation

In 2017, Washington state officials denied key permits that would have allowed Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, LLC to build the nation's largest coal export terminal in Cowlitz County, Washington. This was a huge win for Gorge resources and communities, because the project would have hauled 44 million tons of coal per year through the Columbia River Gorge in uncovered coal trains, spewing toxic coal dust into the Columbia River and the surrounding environment.

Although their proposed dirty coal terminal was denied, project backers have continued their quest by filing multiple legal actions. Friends of the Columbia Gorge has intervened in four of these cases to assist Washington state officials in defending their decisions to deny the project. For the current status of these cases, please visit Friends' legal docket.

Background

In 2011, Millennium Bulk Terminals proposed to build the country's largest coal export terminal on the banks of the Columbia River near Longview, Washington. The project threatens to ship 44 million tons of coal per year through the federally protected Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in uncovered coal trains, distributing toxic coal dust through local communities and into numerous water bodies along the way.

In 2017, the Washington Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Millennium terminal proposal. In their FEIS, the agencies determined that the project would cause multiple significant, adverse impacts to both the environment and communities along the Columbia River

Also in 2017, the project was formally rejected by state and county officials when the Washington Department of Natural Resources denied an aquatic lease, the Department of Ecology denied a water quality permit, and the Cowlitz County Hearings Examiner denied two shoreline development permits for the project. Millennium and other project backers responded by filing multiple appeals and lawsuits against state and county officials in a variety of forums.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge has intervened in four of these cases in order to assist state and county officials in defending their permit denials. The Millennium cases are currently pending before the federal and state courts as well as state administrative agencies. For the current status of these cases, please visit Friends' legal docket or Earthjustice's website.

Friends Opposes the Millennium Coal Export Terminal Because:

It would harm environmental resources and public safety.

The Millennium coal terminal would cause up to eight fully loaded coal trains to travel from Wyoming to Cowlitz County, Washington each day, hauling 44 million tons of coal annually, which would then be shipped to Asia to be burned in power plants. The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Millennium project found that it would cause adverse impacts to a number of environmental and social resources, including social and community resources, cultural resources, tribal resources, rail transportation, rail safety, vehicle transportation, vessel transportation, noise and vibration impacts, and air quality. Among other impacts, cancer risks would rise, greenhouse emissions would increase substantially, the increased coal train traffic would restrict access to tribal fishing areas, the project's rail traffic would cause significant delays for public and emergency response, and there would be a significant increase in the risk of oil spills and other rail accidents. The FEIS also found that these adverse impacts cannot be eliminated through mitigation. These impacts are significant and unacceptable. Friends supports the decisions by state and county officials to deny the projects based on these impacts.
 

The public overwhelmingly opposes the project.

The controversial coal export proposal drew nearly 500,000 public comments in opposition, and thousands of citizens packed public hearings to oppose the project because of its substantial health, transportation, environmental, and economic harm. This harm includes business losses from increased traffic congestion, increased financial burdens for communities forced to pay for upgrades at rail crossings, harm to commercial and recreational fisheries due to impacts to water quality, decreased property values, and increased health care costs.
 

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Looking for more information about this issue? Contact Friends Senior Staff Attorney Nathan Baker.

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