In a potentially fatal blow to the Longview coal project, a federal judge Tuesday upheld the state of Washington’s denial of a key water quality permit for the $680 million export dock.
Judge Robert Bryan of U.S. District Court in Tacoma dismissed claims by Lighthouse Resources and BNSF Railway that the permit denial preempted the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act and the Ports and Waterways Safety Act. Bryan found the companies failed to prove that the federal acts should have barred the state Department of Ecology from denying the water permit.
Millennium began the permitting process for the coal terminal in 2012. The state denied its application for a water quality certificate in September 2017, pointing to “significant unavoidable adverse impacts” outlined in the Final Environmental Impact Assessment for the project. The state also said it didn’t have reasonable assurance that the terminal would meet applicable water quality standards.
Lighthouse Resources sued Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration over the decision in January. Six coal-producing states — Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Kansas and Nebraska — intervened in the suit on behalf of Lighthouse and the railroad, alleging that Washington was blocking interstate commerce by blocking the project.
Bryan’s decision is another in a string of setbacks for Millennium, which is in other legal tangles with the state over the project. In addition, last month the company cut 15 percent of its Longview staff and announced the retirement of its CEO, Bill Chapman.
The terminal would be the largest on the U.S. West Coast and would ship 44 million tons of Rocky Mountain coal to Asia, requiring eight round trips to the terminal site at the old Reynolds Metals Co. aluminum plant. Millennium says it would create 1,000 construction jobs to build and about 130 workers to operate at full development.