Federal judge holds off on decision for export terminal
The Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export project in Longview, Wash. Millennium Bulk Terminals
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington Senior Judge Robert Bryan yesterday stayed the lawsuit that terminal backer Lighthouse Resources Inc. filed against Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) administration.
The coal company had sued over the rejection of Clean Water Act Section 401 water certification for its 44-million-ton export facility in Longview, Wash.
Lighthouse also filed a separate lawsuit against the Washington Department of Ecology over the same decision in Cowlitz County Superior Court after the agency prevailed before the state Pollution Control Hearings Board (Greenwire, Sept. 7).
Bryan worried that his ruling could interfere or change a state court decision, or vice versa.
“Many of the state issues being raised, including whether the State has the authority to deny a permit with prejudice and whether the denial can be based on considerations other than water quality, are issues of first impression,” he wrote.
Despite those concerns, Bryan has already ruled against two arguments presented by Lighthouse and its allies. But he has yet to decide on the main argument that Inslee and his state violated the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause protecting trade across state lines (Energywire, April 2).
The Trump administration sees a major threat to energy exports from Democratic-controlled states on the West Coast. President Trump’s executive order yesterday urged EPA to rein in state water certification authority.
At the National Coal Council meeting today in Washington, D.C., Energy Undersecretary Mark Menezes said “parochial interests” could block “all exports on our West Coast.”
“That’s what’s going on right now with current interpretation of certain states under our federal environmental laws,” Menezes said. “This [executive order] tries to address that.”
But blue states have rushed to defend Washington and states’ rights, as have environmentalists.
“Building the largest coal export terminal in North America on the banks of the Columbia River would be devastating for clean water and the health of local communities,” said Regna Merritt, co-director of the Power Past Coal coalition. “It’s time to abandon this long-shot coal export scheme and start building a clean energy future in the Pacific Northwest.”
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- On April 15, 2019