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.