Federal judge stalls developers’ effort to build West Coast port for Montana coal

Posted at 3:00 PM, Apr 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-15 18:47:43-04

TACOMA, Wash.- A lawsuit filed by developers seeking to build a Pacific Northwest port to handle Montana and Wyoming coal has stalled once again.

U.S. District Judge Robert Bryant of Washington state ruled Friday that the owners of Millennium Bulk Terminals, Lighthouse Resources, must wait for a separate state court action to conclude before he’ll hear their claim.

Lighthouse sued the state of Washington in 2017, claiming state regulators had overstepped their boundaries by denying a permit overseeing interstate commerce. The company has argued that the federal railroad and port safety laws should trump the state’s authority.

For now, Lighthouse must wait until a judge in Cowlitz County, Wash., rules on its appeal of the state’s denial of a water-quality permit before the federal case can proceed.

The Millennium terminal in Longview, Wash., would haul in 44 million tons of coal from Montana and Wyoming and ship to Asian markets. It was first proposed in 2011 and has been mired in regulatory setbacks and financial troubles.

In recent days, however, good news has come to backers of the terminal. President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at softening state regulators’ authority over projects built on waterways. The president said he wants to take the politics out of regulators’ use of the Clean Water Act, a claim that’s been backed by proponents of fossil-fuel development.

Also, Republican Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and John Barrasso of Wyoming have introduced a bill in Congress with a similar goal to Trump’s.