Montana, Wyoming join lawsuit to support proposed Washington coal dock

Posted at 3:02 PM, May 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:01:48-04

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Wyoming and Montana are joining four other states in a federal lawsuit to support a Washington state coal terminal on the Columbia River.

The six states, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Utah, Kansas and Nebraska, argue that Washington state regulators are breaking federal commerce laws by denying permits for Millennium Bulk Terminals to build a coal dock in Longview, Wash.

In a joint amicus brief, the states argued that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon and Comissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz improperly politicized building permits because of their opposition to coal development.

“The Defendants are trying to force on other states their policy preferences regarding the use of coal as a source of fuel, and thus, they are impeding the free flow of commerce. Today it is coal, tomorrow it could be natural gas or non-organic produce. The interests of the interior states in developing foreign trade are not subject to the barriers erected by the policy whims of states that control access to international markets through their ports,” attorneys wrote in the brief.

The statement was provided by Keep Washington Competitive, a Washington-based business group that supports the terminal.

The six states are joining a suit filed by Millennium’s owner, Lighthouse Resources, last year over the permits. The company is backed by business trade groups, who filed a brief similar to the states’ last week.

Millennium is seeking export up to 44 million tons of coal annually from Powder River Basin mines through its site, a shuttered aluminum smelter about 50 miles north of Portland, Ore. Gillette, Wyo-based Cloud Peak Energy has an agreement to ship 7 million tons coal at the dock.

Millennium, under a different ownership structure, filed its first permits in 2010, and has endured several big regulatory and financial setbacks over eight years.

Last month, Washington’s Shoreline Hearings Board backed the denial of a county permits, and state regulators had already said no because they said the company had not adequately shown the project would not harm water and air quality.

If built, the Millennium dock would be one of the largest in North America. Early this decade, the project was one of six proposed in the Pacific Northwest, but the rest were eventually abandoned.

Reporting by Erik Olson for MTN News