Washington State rejects proposal for Longview coal terminal

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

Yet another proposed West Coast coal export terminal has hit a roadblock.

The Longview Terminal, a coal export site proposed by Millennium Bulk Terminals to be constructed near Longview, Wash., was denied a Washington State Department of Ecology water quality permit last week. It’s the latest setback for the last remaining terminal in a slew of proposed export sites that surfaced in 2010 and 2011.

The proposed site for Millennium’s coal refinery in Longview, Washington. (Credit: E. Smith)

According to a Washington Department of Ecology press release, the water quality permit was denied out of concern the terminal would cause “significant and unavoidable harm to nine environmental areas: air quality, vehicle traffic, vessel traffic, rail capacity, rail safety, noise pollution, social and community resources, cultural resources and tribal resources.”

“After extensive study and deliberation, I am denying Millennium’s proposed coal export project,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “There are simply too many unavoidable and negative environmental impacts for the project to move forward.”

Concerns about the project include the need to fill 24 acres of wetlands, dredge 41.5 acres of the Columbia riverbed and install 537 pilings in the river for a trestle and docks. If built, the terminal would move 44 million metric tons of coal each year, which would be piled eight stories high and 50 football fields wide at the site.

The Longview terminal proposal received pushback from local conservation organizations like Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper primarily for its influence on local railway traffic. LPOW director Shannon Williamson is concerned that funneling additional coal trains through Sandpoint increases the likelihood of a derailment into local rivers or lakes, possibly damaging local water quality.

According to Washington Department of Ecology, the terminal would have added 16 1.3-mile-long trains to existing rail traffic.

Millennium spokesperson Wendy Hutchinson told KGW News that it will appeal the decision. The company has already invested $15 million into the permitting process and $25 million into tearing down an aluminum plant constructed on the terminal’s intended site.

Longview is just one coal terminal proposed over the last half-decade for construction in Washington, Oregon and California, although it is the last still under active consideration. Similar projects were planned for Bellingham, Gray’s Harbor, the Port of St. Helens, the Port of Morrow, Coos Bay and Oakland.

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