States Support WA Coal Export Terminal, Denounce Permit Denials

May 15, 2018

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Credit Millennium Bulk Terminals

Six states including Wyoming and national interest groups are pushing back against a decision that could stop a major coal export terminal from getting licensed. Last year, Washington State regulators denied critical permits for the terminal which would be the largest in North America if approved. It would connect western coal to Asian markets.

The six states and organizations aren’t involved in the federal court case, but filed a joint statement, or amicus brief, in support of the terminal. They argued the denial of these environmental permits was too broad and violated the commerce clause, saying it shouldn’t be up to a state to regulate international commerce. In the brief, Washington was also accused of a pattern of discrimination towards the coal industry.

Kristen Boyles, staff attorney for EarthJustice representing environmental groups in the proceedings, said the state has an environmental review law and is responsible for protecting its own areas and citizens. The state agency that denied the water quality permits found the coal export terminal would cause issues in air quality, water quality, increased greenhouse gases, and rail congestion.

Boyles added she doesn’t see the permits ever getting approved if Lighthouse Resources and Millennium Bulk Terminals isn’t willing to amend its project.

“They have not given any indication they're going to change the proposal and they've said in some documents that a smaller proposal which might be more palatable would be uneconomic,” she said.

In January of this year, Lighthouse Resources, the parent company of Millennium Bulk Terminals, responded to the permit denials with a lawsuit. Wendy Hutchinson, senior vice president of external affairs for Millennium Bulk Terminals, said the amicus brief shows trade-dependent states are frustrated.

“In basically pointing out again that Washington State is a gateway to Asian exports and imports but it should not be the gatekeeper,” she said.

Millennium Bulk Terminals is involved in six lawsuits related to the project, according to Hutchinson. Boyles from EarthJustice said the litigation will likely continue for another two years.