McKenna: Regulatory abuse must not go unchecked

After yet another outrageous decision against Millennium Bulk Terminals, a prominent Washington official is stepping forward to say “enough.”

Former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna took to The Olympian recently to call for the end of out-of-control state agencies. He wrote that the “Millennium case is a striking example of how agency regulatory processes can be appropriated by activists seeking to deny or block projects that don’t align with their political agendas.”

One not need look further than the recent comments from Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning to get a sense for the absurdity. Washington’s Department of Natural Resources had denied Millennium a sublease for its proposed coal terminal in Longview based on non-environmental reasons. Judge Warning appropriately ruled that the decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

McKenna noted how rare it is for comments as strong as these to come from the bench. They signal a new level of frustration in response to Washington’s increasingly impossible regulatory environment, he wrote.

And it’s not just McKenna or Judge Warning who are sounding the alarm bells. The Daily News, the hometown paper of the Millennium site, recently published an editorial calling the state’s political fixation against the project “comical.” The newspaper reached the same conclusion as McKenna and Judge Warning: the “permitting process has been a spectacle of politics over policy.”

A growing segment of Washington is demanding that state regulators start doing their job as legally required. Laws and regulations need to be applied evenly and fairly, regardless of one’s political biases. Washington’s citizens deserve at least that, but unfortunately agencies like the Departments of Ecology and Natural Resources continue to behave as political bodies that misuse their regulatory authority.

These political actions cost Washington dearly. When state agencies prove to be doubtlessly unfair, businesses hoping to expand and invest will be sure to skip over our state. Millennium Bulk Terminals has invested $15 million and nearly six years of its time into this regulatory process. What rational business would subject itself to a regulatory climate this preposterous?

McKenna called the ongoing abuse from our state agencies “an affront to our democracy” that “must not go unchecked.” He’s right. So too are Judge Warning and the mounting number of labor groups, business leaders, and everyday citizens who are demanding fairness.

Putting politics aside is not only the right, fair, and legal thing to do. It’s also what’s best for Washington.