A Washington state court yesterday upheld state regulators’ denial of a permit needed to build the Northwest’s last remaining proposal for a new coal export facility.
The Washington Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that Millennium Bulk Terminals was unfairly denied access to build docks on the Columbia River.
The coal company behind the project, Lighthouse Resources Inc., wants to turn a former aluminum smelter site in Longview, Wash., into a 44-million-ton coal port.
Coal companies see exports as a lifeline for collapsing Western coal production, but Millennium is the last of half a dozen terminal proposals blocked by states and environmental groups.
In 2017, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) denied Millennium Bulk Terminals a sublease for state-owned aquatic lands leased to Northwest Alloys Inc. (E&ENews PM, Oct. 26).
Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, who oversees DNR and opposed Millennium during her election campaign, said the coal project was “inconsistent” with the existing lease and Northwest Alloys refused to provided financial information on Millennium.
The Cowlitz County Superior Court ruled that the denial was “arbitrary and capricious,” but the appeals court yesterday agreed that DNR had “legitimate concerns about Millennium’s financial condition and business reputation.”
Millennium and Lighthouse have a number of other pending lawsuits, accusing Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — also a Democratic presidential candidate — of blocking the terminal for political reasons.
But earlier this year, a federal judge decided to withhold judgment until matters were resolved in state court (E&E News PM, April 12).
The project cannot be built without the sublease.
“I don’t see how this isn’t the end of the road,” Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman said. “There’s no workaround.”
Millennium could not be reached for comment but could still appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.
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- On August 22, 2019