ANJE Backs Millennium Shoreline Permit Appeal, Public Records Lawsuit

Recent denial merits additional review of ruling, review of Ecology records

SEATTLE — Representatives from the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports applauded Millennium Bulk Terminals for today’s shoreline permit appeal and public records suit against the state Department of Ecology.

“This is about applying the rule of law, not advancing a political agenda,” said Mariana Parks, spokeswoman for the Alliance. “All permit applicants should be treated fairly, and their requests processed in a fair and timely manner. Millennium is nearly six years into this process and continues to fight for every permit in an uneven regulatory system. It’s time to see what Ecology has been saying in its own correspondence about this project.”

“Alliance members are hopeful that this permit, when viewed through the eyes of the law, will yield a more impartial result,” Parks added.

Mike Bridges, president of the Longview/Kelso Building and Construction Trades Council, said he and his fellow trades workers support the appeal by Millennium and its continued push to complete the project.

“We need a fair and independent review of this permit, one that focuses on facts, not political agendas,” said Bridges. “The Building Trades support regulation that protects our communities and resources. But those regulations should be based on the current guidelines, not on requirements created during the review process. Employers are not going to want to bring projects to Washington if the permit process is unpredictable and never-ending. Our communities need the family-wage jobs these projects will provide to rebuild the middle class. We are hopeful this appeal will bring a rational perspective to this on-going problem, which will benefit Millennium and many other projects currently held up by our broken regulatory process.”

ANJE Response to Cowlitz County Shoreline Permits Ruling on MBT

Hearing examiner’s decision failed to consider the countless testimonies in favor of the project, its overall impact to the community as required by statute

SEATTLE — The Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports released the following statement today after the Cowlitz County Hearing Examiner’s denial of the Millennium Bulk Terminals’ shortline permit.

“At every step of the way, Millennium has acted in good faith and demonstrated an ability to not only meet – but exceed – local, state and federal standards for environmental safety,” said Mariana Parks, spokeswoman for the Alliance. “When looked at closely, this decision condemns the use of trains and ships to deliver goods to an existing port on the Columbia River. This project will inject much needed revenue into the local economy, and provide hundreds of family wage jobs. It’s insulting that even after all this time, money spent, and commitment for a fair review process that decisions are now being made based on political whims rather than the rule of law.”

The labor community included some of the most vocal participants at the recent hearing on Millennium’s shoreline permit, arguing the project was more than capable of balancing economic growth and environmental protections.

“Our members have suffered for far too long in a state that clearly puts less of a premium on job growth outside of King County,” said Mike Bridges, president of the Longview/Kelso Building Trades. “Millennium has been a great partner to the community and has shown it can both provide critical jobs while protecting our air and water. It’s disturbing that the eco-politics pushed by out-of-state interests are driving decisions that affect my members’ livelihoods, and we’re standing firmly behind Millennium as it works through this unfriendly regulatory environment.”

Added Parks, “It is also very disappointing that the decision failed to consider or even mention the extensive public comments regarding the important economic benefits the project would bring to Cowlitz County and the State of Washington as a whole. The Shoreline Management Act requires the decision-maker to consider both the benefits to shoreline communities as well as likely impacts to the shoreline environment.”

Judge Orders State to Find Solution to Millennium Aquatic Sublease

Calls previous lease decision “arbitrary and capricious” 

SEATTLE — A Cowlitz County judge’s decision will force the state of Washington to revisit its hasty decision to deny an aquatic lands sublease to Millennium Bulk Terminals.

Calling the state’s actions “arbitrary and capricious, the judge ordered the parties involved in the sublease agreement — in this case the state, along with Northwest Alloys and its sublease holder, Millennium — to work out a solution. Comments made by the judge from the bench confirm what many have believed to be true, namely that the state is acting politically rather than following legal precedent.

“The message the judge sent today seems to be very clear: At the end of the day, state regulators must still follow the law,” said Mariana Parks, spokeswoman for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports. “For too long, the state has acted on its political leanings rather than follow the proper regulatory procedures and protocols in reviewing Millennium’s permits. Today is a small but important victory for the project because we finally see common sense and the rule of law being applied appropriately.”

“It is highly unusual to hear comments of this nature from the bench,” said former state attorney general Rob McKenna. “To me, they suggest the judge is frustrated with the state. For the court to find that a state agency’s decision was ‘arbitrary and capricious’ highlights how out of line the decision really was.”

Parks added: “We hope to see more of this in the future, though it is frustrating that these decisions have to go through the courts to prompt a fair analysis of proceedings.”

Millennium Appeal of Water Permit Decision ‘the Right Call’

State agency jeopardizing jobs in rural Washington state

SEATTLE — Citing continued overreach by the Washington state Department of Ecology, representatives from the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports praised Millennium Bulk Terminals for today’s water permit appeal and called on regulators to abide by the rule of law.

“Ecology’s denial of Millennium’s water permit tipped its hand and showed the process for what it really is: a political drama with a pre-determined outcome,” said Alliance spokeswoman Mariana Parks.  “When Ecology denied Millennium its water quality permit earlier this month, it did so based on everything but water quality criteria.  If this is the precedent that Ecology seeks to establish, then any other commodity could be denied a permit for equally capricious reasons.”

Added Parks, “The vast majority of our manufacturing and agricultural products all move by rail throughout the state. Are we to assume those products will endure the same level of scrutiny now? This sets a bad precedent for all future projects in our state, and for the jobs they would potentially bring to local economies,” she said. “We can ill-afford for Ecology to morph into an ‘exuberant, job-killing agency’ as some have observed.”

Mike Bridges, President of the Longview/Kelso Building Trades, said a constantly shifting regulatory process just puts more pressure on local economies already struggling to grow local jobs.

“Millennium made the right call to appeal this decision. This is something that stands to have lasting implications for this project and any future projects in Washington state,” said Bridges. “Families need jobs they can build their lives around. Millennium has demonstrated good faith to meet the requirements of this process. Ecology’s decision raises legitimate questions about the fairness of the state’s unpredictable regulatory system, which sends the wrong message to potential and existing employers looking to invest in Cowlitz County.”

Millennium Permit Process A Charade

Governor, Ecology gave false hope to job seekers in pre-determined process to deny permits

SEATTLE — Citing a complete lack of faith in the state’s regulatory review process, representatives from the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports issued the following statement on the Department of Ecology’s rejection of the Millennium Bulk Terminals water quality permit:

“Today’s announcement by Director Maia Bellon and the Department of Ecology lays bare the real regulatory process in Washington state is political theater engineered to fit a specific narrative while denying thousands of jobs to people most in need in our state,” said Mike Bridges, president, Longview/Kelso Building Trades. “This announcement is part of an absurd political effort to stop energy projects in their tracks. And what’s sad is that the state has dragged our members, and thousands of our brothers and sisters through five years of public comment and hearings that were all apparently just for show. Denying Millennium’s water quality permit based on every conceivable notion except water quality issues tells you all you need to know: This process was pre-determined, and was only in search of some hook to hang their reasoning to reject the proposed terminal.”

“Where was the outrage, the protests, the handwringing when King County dumped 235 million gallons of sewage into Puget Sound this past spring? Where was Ecology then? Why no public hearings or public admonishments? Where was the environmental outrage then?” added Mariana Parks, spokeswoman for ANWJE. “Instead, county government gets by with a $300,000 slap on the wrist. But private sector businesses, who create thousands of good-paying jobs in areas of the state desperate for work, get dragged through the political wringer for five years. And to what end?”

“The state knew how it wanted to rule all along, but the governor and Ecology gave my members and the people of Cowlitz County false hope, seemingly going through a permitting process that was billed as a fair and necessary procedure,” added Bridges. “This whole process has been a farce from day one. Our members are hopeful that the appeals board will overrule this blatantly political decision by the Department of Ecology.  If they don’t overturn this outrageous action we will certainly remember this in the coming years, when we get a chance to decide who really stands up for jobs and labor in this state.”

Millennium Bulk Terminals is planning to appeal the decision by Ecology Director Bellon to the State of Washington’s Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office. While this appeal is underway, other permits necessary for Millennium Bulk Terminal’s approval, including the Shorelines permit continue through their regular public comment process.

Millennium Bulk Terminals Granted First Permit

Critical Areas Permit marks another milestone for the export project

SEATTLE — Issuance of the first permit needed for the construction of the Millennium Bulk Terminals export terminal marks another major step for the project, after five years of regulatory evaluation and review.

The Critical Areas Permit issued by the Cowlitz County Department of Building and Planning is designed to protect fish habitat and wetland areas. Issuance of the permit is a positive reflection on the effort Millennium has put into its plans for this project, said Mariana Parks, spokeswoman for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports.

“The fact that Cowlitz County has granted this permit means the county has accepted Millennium’s plan to protect these critical areas,” said Parks. “This is a significant next step for this project, which has undergone more than five years of environmental review and scrutiny. Families in Cowlitz County continue to wait for economic development that will generate good jobs and much-needed tax revenue. The issuance of the Critical Areas Permit represents a landmark moment in this process, the first step of many more toward building this facility and bringing jobs to Cowlitz County.”

Millennium Resubmits Permit Application for Terminal

Administrative action underscores unusually lengthy review process

SEATTLE — A procedural action taken Tuesday by Millennium Bulk Terminals at the request of the Washington State Department of Ecology underscores the lengthy regulatory review process for the proposed export terminal project.

At the agency’s request, Millennium refiled its permit application for the proposed coal export terminal in Longview. The filing was done to accommodate inconsistencies in permitting deadlines between the state (Ecology) and federal governments (US Army Corps of Engineers).

Mariana Parks, spokeswoman for the Alliance, said that while the re-filing was merely an administrative correction, it highlights the ongoing regulatory review process for this project.

“This is another reminder of just how long this process has stretched out,” said Parks. “We continue to emphasize the economic importance of Millennium Bulk Terminals, both in terms of the jobs it would create and the value it would bring to Washington as the most trade-dependent state in the nation. Millennium has worked diligently to ensure this project meets the high standards for environmental protection in Cowlitz County and in Washington,” she added.

“We look forward to reviewing the U.S. Army Corps’ final EIS, the next major milestone for this project.”

Mike Bridges, president of the Longview/Kelso Building Trades/IBEW Local 48, added, “This project is essential to the wellbeing of Southwest Washington. It will bring thousands of jobs to a region that needs the work. This action is another unfortunate reminder that this project has taken far too long – and it’s far past time to make a decision.”

State Makes Questionable Finding on Rail Impact of MBT

SEATTLE — Today, after five years of study and review, the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) released a final Environmental Impact Statement on the Millennium Bulk Terminal project in Longview that contains an allegation that the maximum 16 potential train trips (8 trains entering and leaving the facility) providing service to the facility would increase the potential cancer risk for members of a Longview neighborhood. Alliance spokeswoman Mariana Parks released the following statement regarding this allegation – which, was made for the first time in this final EIS:

“By making this allegation today, DOE violates the very methodology of the expansive scope it chose to evaluate the project’s impacts, and instead chose to look in isolation at the alleged impacts of train operations for a specific commodity, ignoring established facts and public data.   Instead, the FEIS has inflated and inaccurate locomotive air emission assumptions that have not been subjected to public review.

DOE’s assertion regarding a maximum 16 train trips is seemingly an indictment against rail service across the state, which transports grain, lumber, Boeing aircraft fuselages, and the consumer products we all rely on every day. BNSF Railway operates the newest fleet of lower emission, fuel efficient locomotives in the US rail industry, and include advanced idle reduction controls. In addition to freight, some 48 Amtrak and Sound Transit Commuter Rail trains operate daily, transporting thousands of people in Central Puget Sound and around the state, using the same or similar locomotives that move freight across the state. That total of 48 passenger trains is scheduled to increase to 56 later this fall.   

So, is DOE suggesting in the FEIS that these trains are also creating an increased risk for anyone near their operation?  To do so ignores the fact that rail is the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient surface transportation mode.  (Freight trains effectively take the equivalent of 280 trucks off the highway, which saves four times the fuel and reduces emissions and highway traffic congestion.)

In addition, as the massive FEIS document for the MBT project was released, the DOE Administrator chose to launch her own Twitter campaign of tweets exclusively highlighting the negative assertions made about the project.  In so doing, she has removed any final veil of attempting to be impartial in evaluating the Millennium Bulk Terminal project.]

The MBT project will do the following good things: it will provide thousands of family wage jobs, millions of dollars of tax revenue, and cleanup of an old industrial site.   We hope the Federal Final EIS will provide a much more grounded, reasoned evaluation of the potential impacts of the project.”  

State penalizes Millennium with unprecedented SEPA findings

Unprecedented SEPA ruling sets bad precedent for trade, exports and jobs

SEATTLE — Washington state is closed for business – unless regulators are comfortable with the commodity or product.

That’s essentially what the Washington State Department of Ecology told Millennium Bulk Terminals today when it ruled the company would have to mitigate for 100% of the emissions generated by overseas use of coal exported through Longview.

Mariana Parks, spokeswoman for the Alliance, offered the following statement in the wake of today’s decision:

“This is use of a state regulatory policy to police the use of products outside of Washington state is simply unheard of. We don’t penalize farmers for agricultural products used in foreign markets, or aerospace manufacturers. But because it’s coal, state polices are being used to enforce the end-use of products around the globe. It’s unprecedented, and telegraphs the wrong message about doing business in Washington state.

As the most trade-dependent state in the country, where one in three jobs is tied to trade, you would expect a more level-headed approach to the regulatory process. This is purely a political decision, and unfortunately, the people of Southwest Washington are being made to pay for it. We’re talking about nearly 3,000 new jobs that would be created with this project and millions in new annual tax revenue, for schools, roads and public safety.

Washington state has the most stringent environmental regulations in the country. So it begs the question, why not build this project here, where we can ensure the product will be handled safely from start to finish? It also gives us pause as we look at the continued economic uncertainty in places like Kelso and Longview, where unemployment rates barely fluctuate below seven percent. What are we doing to help these people and grow jobs in their community? Imagine what 3,000 new jobs would do for a community like Longview.

Millennium Bulk Terminals is committed to building this project right. They’ve already demonstrated their commitment to redeveloping the former Alcoa smelter, spending millions on environmental cleanup of a site that would otherwise still be in distress. Millennium is located in an existing industrial area, it has taken all the steps — jumped through all the regulatory hoops — and the state continues to move the goal line for permits.

Today’s SEPA announcement is a disappointment and a frightening example of the kind of regulatory overreach at play in our state. It’s very disheartening and does not project the right tone for future employers looking to cite a business here in Washington state.”

The Alliance For Northwest Jobs & Exports Statement on BNSF Legal Settlement

SEATTLE – The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports released the following statement today after BNSF railroad reached a settlement with several environmental groups that brought unfounded and outrageous litigation against the company:

Alliance spokeswoman Mariana Parks said:

“Today’s settlement agreement by BNSF in the outrageous $4.6 trillion litigation brought by overzealous environmental groups underscores what we’ve all known for years: that coal dust is not an issue in this region. We’ve known this for nearly as long as trains have run through Washington. 

We knew this 2 years ago, when the Northwest Clean Air Agency found that coal dust from rail traffic wasn’t a concern to our air, water or quality of life. And this position was recently reiterated in the most comprehensive and extensive reviews ever conducted in southwest Washington during the compilation of the draft environmental impact statements for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals by Cowlitz County, the state, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In fact, the Washington State Department of Ecology analysis stated as much when they found that “there would be no unavoidable and significant environmental impacts from coal dust” tied to the project.  

Anyone trying to claim anything else about coal dust is simply promoting an extreme agenda, regardless of the facts. BNSF is a good corporate citizen to the state of Washington, and continues to make significant investments, such as the $26 million spent on rail improvements at the respray facility in Pasco, to improve rail traffic. This settlement, to bring an end to protracted and costly litigation, recognizes the fact that coal will continue to be safely transported through the Northwest, just as it has for well over a century.”