Washington state and environmental groups scored a win in their fight against a West Coast coal export terminal April 1 when a federal district judge dismissed a foreign affairs doctrine claim brought by BNSF Railway Co.
Lighthouse Resources Inc. subsidiary Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview LLC was denied a water quality certificate from the state of Washington in September 2017 based on environmental concerns and other potential impacts of the project. BNSF planned to provide rail service to the proposed terminal and maintained that Washington’s denial of the state’s water quality certificate is preempted by the foreign affairs doctrine. U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan dismissed those claims in an April 1 order in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, granting summary judgment to Washington and environmental groups including the Washington Environmental Council and the Sierra Club.
BNSF’s claim was denied, the judge explained, because the railroad company failed to point to an express executive policy which is in conflict with the state’s denial of the permit. A National Security Strategy Report, an executive order and the general remarks of the president and the administration in favor of the coal, the judge wrote, do not suffice as evidence for the foreign affairs doctrine claim.
Bryan dismissed other claims brought by backers of the project in late 2018.
Lighthouse originally appealed the state’s denial to Washington’s Pollution Control Hearings Board, but the decision was upheld in August 2018. The board’s decision was appealed and is currently pending in the Cowlitz County Superior Court.
The Millennium project was being built primarily to move Powder River Basin and Uinta Basin coal to Asian markets. The proposed terminal was expected to have a capacity for exporting 44 million tonnes per year.