Corps Of Engineers Will Speed Up West Coast Coal Export Terminal Review

As U.S. coal producers have recovered on the backs of a new coal export boom to Asia, the Corps of Engineers announced it would revive and speed up its permit review of the long-embattled Millennium Bulk Terminals export coal terminal in Longview, Wash.

Planned since 2012, the facility has already received its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in 2017, issued after many delays by Cowley County and the state’s Department of Ecology. Millennium says it wants to further develop the site for other bulk commodities.

According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. coal exports to Asia more than doubled in 2017. In the first half of 2018, the U.S. shipped about 23 million metric tons of coal to South Korea, Japan and China.

But the project remains bitterly opposed by most state and local officials, allied with national environmental groups opposed to any export of coal because of climate change. They have used a variety of delaying tactics to stop it. In 2017, the state Department of Ecology denied a key water permit, citing increased vessel traffic and damage to wetlands.

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On September 8, Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview filed a complaint against the Department of Ecology and its director, Maia Bellon, alleging that they violated state and federal law and the U.S. and state of Washington constitutions by “intentionally misapplying the Clean Water Act and State Environmental Protection Act to deprive Millennium of its rights, privileges and immunities.”

The bitter dispute over the coal terminal stretches across the country. It has led to lawsuits against Washington state by coal-producing states Montana and Wyoming, which had hoped to send their cleaner-burning low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal to China and other Asian customers.

On October 16, Corps spokeswoman Patricia Grasser told local media that Corps staff is proceeding with the permit evaluation while waiting for actions outside the Corps control, such as state water certification.

Frustrated over the resistance, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke threatened on October 15 to use West Coast military bases to export coal. Before joining President Donald Trump’s cabinet, Zinke was a congressman from Montana. U.S. Rep. Lynn Cheney (R-Wyo.) said she has spoken with Energy Secretary Rick Perry about using federal facilities, including military bases, to get around the coal export bottleneck.