Today, Millennium Bulk Logistics withdrew its permit application for a proposed mega-terminal for coal export to Asia in Longview, Washington. The withdrawal follows several weeks of reports about the company’s deception around the true size of the project.
“From the start, this proposal was a bad deal for Longview—coal dust causing health problems, coal trains causing traffic backups, and a coal company we couldn’t trust to tell us the simple truth,” said Becky Kelley with Washington Environmental Council. “Millennium withdrawing their permit application after the true size of their proposal was revealed just goes to show how much they’d misrepresented their intentions. Everyone needs to remember Millennium’s deceit when they try and push through this bad idea again.”
While company officials assured county commissioners and community members that the terminal would handle 5 million tons of year (an amount roughly equal to the amount of coal burned in Washington annually) in their permit application, internally, company officials were prepping for a facility that would export up to 80 million tons of coal to China.
“Millennium was trying to hide the serious public health impacts and traffic congestion caused by thousands of dirty coal trains and a dusty terminal,” said Brett VandenHeuvel with Columbia Riverkeeper. “Millennium got caught being dishonest and was forced to withdraw their permit.”
“The discrepancies between what they were purporting in their applications and what they were internally planning for was truly astonishing,” said Jan Hasselman, an attorney for Earthjustice, which represented the coalition of groups who appealed the initial permit.
“The profits were headed out of the country, but the health problems and pollution would have been here to stay”, said Ross Macfarlane, Senior Advisor for Climate Solutions. “This idea of turning Washington into a way station for coal—which will pollute our atmosphere with tons of carbon dioxide and toxics—is a losing idea for our health and our economy.”
In November 2010, Cowlitz County Commissioners approved a shoreline permit to build a coal export facility. In December 2010, a diverse coalition of clean economy, environmental and citizen groups appealed the permit, saying the facility would threaten public health and run counter to state efforts to curb carbon pollution and build a clean energy economy. Also in December, the Washington State Department of Ecology intervened in the challenge contending that the permit had not considered the full impacts of the coal export facility. In February, company documents revealed the true scope of the project was up to 12 times what had been proposed in the permitting process.
“Public health, clean energy advocates and conservations groups are obviously pleased that this disastrous proposal will not rush forward as the coal company had hoped,” said Cesia Kerins, regional representative with the Sierra Club. “Our work to keep coal’s damaging pollution out of our air, water, lungs and climate continues. We hope that any other company currently considering willfully ignoring a community’s health so they can export coal is paying attention to this example."