Opponents of a proposed coal export terminal on the Columbia River in Longview, Washington are celebrating the State of Washington's decision to deny the developer the right to use state-owned aquatic lands.
As part of its proposal to export 44 million tons of coal annually from Longview, Millennium Bulk Terminals applied for state approval to sublease aquatic lands currently leased to Northwest Alloys, an ALCOA subsidiary. Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark rejected the proposal, citing Millennium's "chronic pattern of failure" in providing essential and accurate information in connection with the request. Specifically, the missing information relates to Millennium's agreement with Northwest Alloys and the financial viability of the proposed export business, which the state was keen to study given the recent bankruptcy of Millennium's parent company Arch Coal.
The Longview project was proposed following abandonment of a similar proposal at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon by Millennium owner Lighthouse Resources. But the project has since been beset by a series of setbacks, including 215,000 public comments mostly opposing the project and the decision of state and county regulators to consider the local and global effects of burning coal when evaluating the project's environmental risks.
The developer tried to downplay the impact of the rejection, but it is hard to see how the proposal can go forward as currently designed without the right to place facilities in the Columbia River.
Notwithstanding the developer's feigned lack of concern, fossil fuel export is a tough sell in the Pacific Northwest, and the Longview project looks like it will join the trend. Six coal terminals and several other facilities to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) or petroleum have been proposed in recent years, and only three proposals are still breathing - the Longview project, a proposed coal terminal in Ferndale, Washington and an oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver – and all face significant public opposition. Recently dropped projects include the proposed Jordan Cove LNG facility in North Bend, Oregon, which collapsed in December when FERC confirmed the denial of necessary permits due to the developer's failure to show a need for the facility.