This morning, Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview was told Ecology was denying a routine water quality certification. This certification is commonly known as the “401 cert.”- after the section of the federal law that created this requirement.
Ecology appears to have intentionally avoided decades of law and practice defining the Clean Water Act, and more surprisingly to have overlooked the many positive findings of fact in the Final EIS they published—no adverse impacts water quality, wetlands or fisheries.
It is important to understand that Ecology did not justify its denial based on the coal that would be handled by Millennium’s proposed export terminal. In fact, just over a year ago Ecology issued Trans Alta a water quality decision for the Centralia facility that stores the same type and quantity of coal.
Instead, Ecology argued the impacts of rail traffic and vessel traffic outside of the project boundaries created “too many unavoidable and negative impacts”. Yet the number of trains and vessels serving Millennium will be within the range of historic traffic numbers in the area for vessels and trains.
Ecology also relied on an interpretation that normal in-water work necessary to construct, operate, and maintain docks and port infrastructure created too many impacts to allow the project to move forward. However, the work proposed by Millennium is similar to work routinely completed by ports and private dock owners along the Columbia and Snake Rivers, Grays Harbor, and throughout Puget Sound.
The basis for Ecology’s rejection of Millennium’s 401 cert could equally apply to any new project generating rail or vessel traffic in the state. The agency’s decision could possibly even limit the operations of current manufacturing and trade facilities. Even if the agency doesn’t apply this decision to other permits, opponents can always turn to the courts to argue this decision for Millennium should also block future projects.
Despite this unfair decision, Millennium is committed to moving forward with the project and will continue to pursue other permits necessary for the construction and operation of the coal export facility.
One of those permits will be issued by Cowlitz County. The comment period for that permit is open for a few more days (until Oct 7). Given today's news, we would greatly appreciate if you would add your voice and submit a comment. Will you click below and add your name? It's extremely easy and will help get us across the finish line.
Millennium is confident it will ultimately receive a fair and unbiased decision based on the facts. This decision will result in the necessary permits to create over 1,000 jobs in our community while supporting many jobs in other communities across the West.