Four Republican US Senators have filed a bill to “clear the way for construction of the Millennium Bulk Terminal” project in Longview, Washington. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), John Barraso (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) are sponsoring the bill that would amend the Clean Water Act in order to improve the likelihood of Millennium’s coal terminal moving forward.
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Millennium Bulk has been locked in a six-year battle with the state government related to their attempt to build a coal terminal project along the Columbia River. After being denied several key permits, in January Millennium Bulk’s parent company, Lighthouse Resources Inc., filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Inslee and his administration claiming the state is discriminating against the project because it involves coal and is hindering foreign and interstate commerce.
In May, six states (including Montana and Wyoming) filed an amicus brief in support of Lighthouse Resources. The brief claims Inslee has an “anti-coal position” and specifically points to the financial impact the permit denials have had on Montana and Wyoming. If the coal terminal were constructed, the two states would be able to bring their coal to Longview where it would then be shipped to foreign markets. By rejecting the permits, the states say Washington is interfering with their free trade.
Representatives from Montana have voiced their criticism of Washington’s permit denial several times in recent months. Montana AG Tim Fox wrote an op-ed describing the permit denials as “discriminatory” and at the 2018 Montana Energy Summit, Republican lawmakers referred to Washington as a “blockade” to international trade.
The Senators new bill was filed at the beginning of August. Specifically, the bill would clarify the scope and requirements for water quality certification requests. The bill would also only allow states to consider on-site discharges when evaluating water quality, not discharges from other sources. The bill specifies that states are only allowed to deny a request based on water quality reasons.
Everett King, President & CEO of Lighthouse Resources, issued a statement of support saying,
“When a project meets all water quality standards, the project’s water quality certification should be awarded. Unfortunately, this was not the case with our coal export project in Washington State. This legislation ensures that Clean Water Act decisions remain about water quality and are not used for an improper purpose. In addition, the proposed legislation will bring greater clarity for the development of the port for other non-coal products.”
AG Tim Fox also praised the legislation.
“Montana is a commodity-rich state and our businesses need reliable access to overseas markets. Sen. Daines’ legislation is an important step in depoliticizing the environmental review process for export terminals. By leveling the playing field among the states, we can maintain robust environmental protection standards while also ensuring Montanans can ship their goods to customers around the world.”