The shipping and logistics company Millennium Bulk Terminals last week filed applications for federal, state and county permits to build a coal export terminal in Longview, Wash. Last year, Millennium withdrew its permit applications to build a coal export facility in Longview after Earthjustice attorneys uncovered internal company memos discussing secret plans to exponentially expand the facility’s capacity once the terminal was constructed.
The uncovered memos left Millennium with a public relations black eye and resulted in the departure of the company’s chief executive officer. Millennium’s initial proposal publicly stated the terminal’s shipping capacity at 5 million tons per year, although the company’s internal documents revealed plans to expand the capacity to 60 million tons annually. Now, Millennium’s new project proposes shipping 44 million tons of coal annually to Asia via Longview.
The coal would be sourced from mines in Montana and Wyoming, and loaded onto trains to transport the coal to the proposed terminal on the Columbia River. The mile-long coal trains would employ uncovered boxcars, which allow coal dust to escape and pollute nearby communities along the rail route. Once the coal arrived at the Longview terminal, it would sit in enormous open-air piles. Winds would blow coal dust from the piles into the city of Longview, creating a public health hazard. Despite Millennium’s promise of mitigation efforts, coal dust pollution is a well-documented fact at existing coal export terminals around the globe.
Currently, only two coal export terminals operate on the western coast of the North American continent: one south of Vancouver, British Columbia and one in Seward, Alaska. But with the demand for coal growing in Asian nations, the industry is keenly interested in developing coastal terminals to move coal mined in Montana and Wyoming to countries such as China.
Earthjustice’s legal team is examining the new permit applications and studying Millennium’s proposal.
“We stand ready to protect the health and the quality of life of the residents of Longview,” said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman. “A coal export facility in Longview would not only put the local community at risk, but also generate more greenhouse gas pollution in Asia, which leads to climate change.”