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.

Filling in the Blanks: Providing the Facts the Seattle Times Omitted from its Millennium Editorial

The Seattle Times recently published an editorial proclaiming an “environmental victory” for Washington following the Department of Ecology’s questionable decision to deny a water quality permit for the Millennium Bulk Terminals project in Longview late last month. This decision, the state even acknowledged, was largely based on factors unrelated to water quality.

The editorial board seemed to have no problem with the state far exceeding its mandate for review in this particular case – largely, we believe, based on the paper’s long-time opposition to energy infrastructure projects in Washington. Yet interesting to anyone that read this editorial, was the paper raising questions about the future implications of an expanded review on other projects. Of particular interest, the paper wrote, “how do we ensure that the Department of Ecology’s expanded reach – incorporating economic and environmental factors beyond its normal scope – avoids morphing into an exuberant, job-killing agency?”

Well, Seattle Times editorial writers, we’d argue, that the ship has already sailed.

The Seattle Times editorial board may be politically predisposed against fossil fuels, but predispositions aren’t a replacement for the facts. To help set the record straight, we have decided to help our readers see the reality behind many of the paper’s claims.

Check out the “updated” version of the Seattle Times editorial to get the truth about the permit and the Millennium Bulk Terminal project.

Longview Citizens Worry about Their Children’s Futures after Millennium Denial

After the Department of Ecology’s controversial decision to deny Millennium Bulk Terminals a key permit for its project, citizens of Longview united in voicing grave concerns over the prospects for the community and future generations. The Daily News spoke to several worried members of the community who discussed the repercussions of the state’s short decision.

“I wonder where my boys will work when they are ready. … It used to be right out of high school, you could get a good-paying job at a mill. Those opportunities are being reduced, so we have an entire generation now of people who are underemployed and without hope,” said Mike Wallin, a local real estate broker and City of Longview councilman.

Ecology’s announcement followed more than five years of regulatory review and, given many is sure to be appealed. Yet several local politicians, from both sides of the aisle, expressed their disappointment with the unwelcome news for parts of the state facing high unemployment and economic struggles.

Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) said that the ruling would have a “chilling effect” on potential infrastructure projects moving forward. Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview) added, “It’s going to be tough to tell people to come here and bring your factory or build your project when you don’t know how long it’s going to take. It could be 3, 5, 6 years and then at the end it’s a toss of the coin whether you’ll get it or not.”

Local labor leaders denounced the decision citing the detrimental impact on jobs.

“If you apply the Department of Ecology’s justifications for denial, such as dredging in the Columbia River, driving pilings, or increased rail traffic, etc. to all businesses and ports along the Columbia River, there would be no expansion of current industries or new business opportunities anywhere along the Columbia or the I-5 corridor,” said Mike Bridges of the Kelso-Longview Building Trades Council. Dennis Weber, Cowlitz County commissioner, expressed similar sentiments: “Why would industries come it we can’t promise them that they’ll be treated fairly and with consistency and predictability?”

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

Millennium Is the Answer to Japan’s Call for U.S. Coal

The Seattle Times recently published an opinion editorial by Dr. Shozo Kaneko, a fellow of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers and recently retired faculty member of the University of Tokyo, detailing the economic and security needs the Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview project could provide for long standing U.S. trading partners like Japan.

The fact that this project wouldn’t just create economic benefits for southwest Washington but also would provide benefits for allies like Japan is often overlooked in the debate over the project.

Dr. Kaneko correctly notes, “the Millennium project brings substantial benefits to Longview and the state of Washington—and it also offers Japan a sound solution to its pressing energy security challenges.”

Japan, like many countries, needs coal to keep its country and economy running. In fact, earlier this year, the Japanese government announced it was moving ahead with its plans to build up to 45 new coal fired power stations. As a nation that imports 96% of its natural energy resources, it’s clear the Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview project is in perfect position to meet Japan’s immense need.

But there is also an environmental case to be made for using U.S. coal shipped through the Millennium Bulk Terminals project.  Japan has strict environmental requirements when it comes to coal emissions, which is exactly why it looks to the U.S. and our high-quality, low sulfur, Powder River Basin coal versus alternatives that would come from other sources to meet their energy needs.

Dr. Kaneko states, “Japan is a global leader in aggressively pursuing high efficiency/low-to-zero emission technologies for generating electricity from coal… We also want to import the highest quality coal possible to optimize our substantial investments in coal technology infrastructure.” As a world leader in low-emission and high-efficiency coal plants, Japan views Millennium Bulk Terminals and the state of Washington as ideal trade partners to ensure the transport of a commodity that has been a part of the nation’s energy portfolio for years.

Powder River Basin coal not only serves as a low-emissions resource for Japan; it also provides much-needed national security. As the Asian-Pacific region becomes increasingly unstable, Japan’s ability to rely on coal from a stable trading partner like the U.S. becomes even more vital.

The proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals project will help meet both the present and future demand. Dr. Kaneko points out that “the 2016 International Energy Outlook concludes that coal will remain the second-largest energy source worldwide until 2030.” On top of that, world coal consumption is expected to increase by over 20 percent by 2040. It is clear, coal will continue to provide energy security for nation’s around the globe. The Millennium Bulk Terminals project is an investment into this reality that will unlock jobs and growth across oceans.

Countries and companies are waiting for opportunities like the Millennium Bulk Terminals facility to open. The high-quality coal that would move through Longview is in high-demand given its efficiency and quality. Dr. Shozo Kaneko’s testimony to the impact the terminal would have for all parties involved further underscores the need for this project.

A Series of Misinformation on Rail Activity

The Daily News recently published the first of a three-part series examining one of the more outlandish allegations in the state’s final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Millennium Bulk Terminals project: the notion that the trains serving the proposed Longview terminal will increase the estimated risk of cancer for people living in the surrounding area. Both the Alliance and BNSF already refuted in exhaustive detail these allegations, which are troubling for several reasons.

First, DOE’s assertion regarding a maximum 16 train trips into Longview 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. In addition to freight, thousands of people in region ride Amtrak or the commuter rail systems that use the same or similar locomotives every day. Are we saying people near those tracks are in danger as well? Seems more likely that the state is picking which rail activity they want to condemn based upon commodity, which is simply not right.

Remember, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) just a few months ago welcomed their own trains in Seattle that are virtually identical to the locomotives that will be used to transport materials in an out of Longview. Neither train system poses any significant cancer risk to communities, but the state did not report on this factor in their analysis of WSDOT rail traffic, only in their comments for Millennium Bulk Terminals. (See our infographic on the state “playing favorites” here.)

Second, the article ignores the fact that trains are the most environmentally sensitive way to move products, with far fewer diesel emissions and more fuel efficiency than trucks. The assertion that any single resident would be constantly exposed to train traffic and diesel emissions is disingenuous given the technologies employed to prevent train idling. BNSF’s train’s meet federal “Tier 4” standards which means they are more fuel efficient, and emit 70% less than prior trains, even newer trains produce 90% less emissions, a monumental decrease. In comparison to using hundreds, if not thousands, of truck to haul resources, freight trains are four times more fuel efficient than trucks, and only account for 0.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The Daily News’ series only serves to further spread misinformation about freight rail traffic to a project that would both boost economic opportunities  and take steps towards following the state’s legacy of environmental stewardship.

Say No to Coal Dust Myths

In an opinion commentary recently published by the Seattle Times, a local activist – and known critic of fossil fuel infrastructure projects – took to the pages of the state’s largest paper to again raise previously debunked accusations regarding coal dust related to the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals (MBT) project in Longview.  It’s often difficult to follow Mr. Michael Riordan’s essay at times as it’s based on perceived facts that are stated without support while failing to account for the numerous studies – including the state’s exhaustive environmental review – debunking his concerns about coal dust.

Exaggerated concerns regarding coal dust is unfortunately not new. The false notion that coal dust is a problem has long been a rallying cry of opponents of economic growth in Washington, and the Millennium project in particular. But unfortunately for them, the facts have never backed up their assertions.

First in 2014, the NW Clean Air Agency found that coal dust from rail traffic wasn’t a concern to Washington’s air, water or quality of life. Then most recently, this same sentiment was reiterated in the state’s own Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) analysis for the MBT project which found that “there would be no unavoidable and significant environmental impacts from coal dust” tied to the project. The author’s suggestion that the survey by DOE underestimates impact of the terminal doesn’t take into account the monitoring conducted by government agencies and the extensive methodology the state undertook to reach its conclusions.

Mr. Riordan’s essay attempts to overwhelm the reader with specious arguments that are simply not supported by fact. His assumptions of poor calculations in the state’s EIS based upon photographs are speculative at best and unsupported while he simply neglects to acknowledge that the EIS utilizes a more stringent dustfall deposition standard than any other state – or province-level dustfall deposition standard utilized in either the U.S. or Canada.

Dr. Roger O. McClellan, a past chairman of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and an internationally recognized expert in toxicology, shot down the very notion that coal dust means environmental degradation in his own earlier Seattle Times piece, stating:

“Just because a piece of coal is found in the water or coal dust is found near a rail track does not mean humans are exposed to it. Coal is not a substance that breaks down easily. Coal is relatively innocuous. Simply moving it by trains or trucks or barges does not equate to a risk to the environment or human health.”

Rail companies like BNSF have spent a significant amount of time studying and conducting comprehensive research about coal dust over the last decade and deployed state-of-the-art monitoring techniques while investing millions, including in its Pasco respray facility that adds an additional topping agent to the cars, to safely transport coal. These companies are good corporate citizens to Washington and will continue to make the investments required to safely transport all commodities, including coal.   To continue pushing misleading claims that ignore the body of research and facts from the state’s own studies is a disservice to Washingtonians.

First Permit and SEPA EIS Finalized Millennium’s Proposed Terminal

This week, The Daily News in Longview reported that the deadline to appeal the critical areas permit for the Millennium Bulk Terminals project passed unceremoniously. With the passing of this deadline, MBT has now officially received its first permit for the project and the environmental impact statement (EIS) released by the state and county earlier this year is now final.

In the words of the senior environmental planner for Cowlitz County, Ron Malin, the “appeal ship has sailed.”

Millennium has worked for over five years to bring a safe, sustainable facility to Longview. The project will provide 1,000 jobs during construction and 130 permanent jobs upon completion. Once the facility is operational, it will also generate $5.9 million annually in local taxes.

CEO and President Bill Chapman told the Daily News, “We are delighted the permit and the Final Environmental Impact Statement will move forward without challenge.  This confirms the project meets Washington’s strict environmental standards. We are grateful for the outpouring of local community support that has generated a momentum toward construction.”

Read the full piece from The Daily News here.

Washington Building Trades Support Millennium’s Longview Project

Expanding the job market should be one of Washington’s top priorities. That’s why it’s encouraging to see organizations in our state standing up for trade infrastructure projects that will provide opportunities to thousands of people. At its 2017 Convention, the Washington Building and Construction Trades Council demonstrated its commitment to projects that will generate family-wage jobs in our state by passing a resolution declaring support for Millennium’s proposed export terminal in Longview.

The Washington Building Trades advance the needs of working people by coordinating efforts between local unions and other allies to establish a unified voice for building trades workers and ensure safe and equitable labor practices. The council understands the value of strong infrastructure projects like Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview and “pledges to continue to work in all possible ways for the successful permitting and construction” of the facility.

Millennium President and CEO Bill Chapman expressed encouragement and gratitude for the Washington Building Trades’ endorsement. “Millennium appreciates the Washington Building Trades’ continuous support and are honored that their membership reasserted their commitment to our project. The hard work and dedication of the Washington Building Trades is helping advance the growth of our region and state, especially where unemployment is still high in Southwest Washington. We look forward to having the men and women of labor unions on our job site soon,” he said.

This resolution reflects the way Millennium strives to ensure mutual benefit for local communities in all its business practices. The company will employ 2,600 people to build the terminal, and has committed to using union labor to complete the project in a safe and ethical manner. Upon completion, the terminal will sustain 300 family-wage jobs, greatly expanding opportunity in Cowlitz County. The Washington Building Trades’ resolution also emphasized several of the terminal’s other benefits, including the $37.2 million in state tax revenue and $5.9 million in county tax revenue it will generate annually.

Mike Bridges, president, Longview/Kelso Building Trades, IBEW Local 48, highlighted the local excitement behind Millennium’s project. “Longview is a working-class town built on the natural resources industry with a deep-water port on the Columbia River,” he said. “Millennium is a transformational project. They will breathe new life into our historically industrial community – and they have already taken considerable steps to prove they deserve our support.”

The Washington Building Trades’ resolution in support of Millennium affirms that citizens of Washington understand and value the positive impact the Longview terminal will have on the surrounding communities. After more than five years of intense review, during which the Washington Building Trades say Millennium has “gone above and beyond the local, state, and federal requirements,” it’s time to put people to work building a safe, efficient facility. Hopefully, this resolution will remind the rest of the state – especially regulators who have been dragging their feet – just how valuable this project is to the working people of Longview.

Read the full resolution here.

Permits for Trade Infrastructure Projects Bring Washington Closer to Growth

Washington’s approval process for industrial projects often creates steep barriers to growth, but recently there’s been progress in the right direction. Last month, Northwest Innovation Works (NIW) received several necessary permits for their methanol plant in Kalama, which would create 200 full-time jobs. That development has been under review for three years, but other projects have been waiting even longer. After five years of extensive environmental analysis, Millennium Bulk Terminals recently received the first permit for its Longview coal terminal.

Issuance of the permit is an important milestone for the project after years of delay. Throughout an arduous review process, Millennium has gone above and beyond to demonstrate how it will exceed the state’s stringent environmental standards. It’s encouraging to see the state recognize Millennium’s dedication to creating a safe, sustainable jobs for the working families of Longview.

Despite all obstacles, Millennium remains determined to create a state-of-the-art facility. “Today this project took another significant step forward. We are absolutely delighted to see the agencies begin permit issuance based on their extensive Environmental Impact Statement,” Millennium CEO and President Bill Chapman said.

Millennium’s project is a great fit for our state. Building the Longview coal terminal will employ 2,650 people, ultimately creating 300 permanent jobs. That means Millennium will pour $65 million in wages into our state annually. The terminal will also generate over $37 million in tax revenue every year, empowering leaders to improve their communities.

However, none of this can happen unless the state acts in the best interest of its citizens.

According to The Daily News in Longview, the DOE “continues to make up new standards along the way,” enforcing restrictions on energy projects that other developments don’t have to follow. This repeated discrimination against crucial energy infrastructure is setting a precedent against growth in Washington, and diminishing our ability to compete for investment.

The state must do more to advance projects that spur economic growth, and review all proposals with expediency and fair standards. If Washington wants to help communities thrive, the DOE will continue issuing permits for crucial projects that meet our state’s high standards.

Read the full piece from The Daily News here.

Millennium Project Will Generate Nearly $6 Million in Annual Tax Revenue

Recently, the state Department of Ecology (DOE) requested that Millennium Bulk Terminals resubmit its water quality certification permit for the export terminal project proposed for Longview. Millennium President and CEO Bill Chapman said the resubmission won’t significantly delay the project which has been under review by the state and federal authorities for more than five years.

So what does this delay cost? A recent article in The Daily News suggested that by dragging its feet, the DOE is preventing growth in the Longview job market, diminishing U.S. export capacity, and denying $5.4 million in state and local tax revenue to communities who need it.

The bottom line is that Millennium is eager to invest in Washington and committed to meeting the state’s stringent environmental safety standards. In its resubmitted application, the company shortened its proposed dock on the Columbia River by 142 feet, reducing the amount of sand dredged for the project by 150,000 cubic yards. “Our goal has always been to minimize our environmental footprint and we are successfully doing that as we get into the design details,” Mr. Chapman said.

Citizens interested in voicing their support for the project can submit comments here. We encourage you to take moment to make your voice heard by supporting this effort to grow our job market.