A decision this week by the Washington Department of Ecology will kill off the last attempt to build a bulk export terminal in the state to ship western United States coal to China, as long as the decision survives a court appeal.
“There are simply too many unavoidable and negative environmental impacts for the project to move forward,” Ecology Director Maia Bellon said Tuesday, in announcing the decision to deny an essential permit to the Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview. The Seattle Times says the department cited nine problem areas with the application, including rail safety, air pollution, noise pollution, and tribal resources.
The announcement means the U.S. Pacific Northwest “will not be a hub for the global trade in dirty fossil fuels. It is not who we are,” said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represented a coalition of environmental groups in the legal fight against the project. “The conversation about coal export from the Pacific Northwest is over.”
“The state did the right thing today, standing up for clean water, public health, and the Pacific Northwest’s iconic endangered salmon runs,” said Power Past Coal Co-Director Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky.
The Times notes the project “has run into economic challenges, as the price coal can fetch in Asia has dropped due to slackening demand. Also, Northwest environmentalists fiercely oppose the project, railing against the prospect of increased coal train traffic through the region, and exporting a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases.”
Associated Press adds that “environmentalists, tribes, and others have fiercely opposed the project—which could increase U.S. exports of coal by 40%—because of concerns about global warming, coal dust pollution, and potential damage to fisheries on the river.”
Millennium will appeal the ruling in search of “a fairer and more consistent interpretation of the law,” said President and CEO William Chapman. “Multiple recent decisions by the agency seem biased against the Longview community, and particularly blind to the need for employment opportunities in Cowlitz County,” he claimed. [So now he’ll maybe invest in a community solar or building retrofit program to support local employment? Surely not. – Ed.]
In an email to supporters, Dogwood Initiative coal campaigner Arie Ross says the Washington State decision leaves British Columbia as the last coastal jurisdiction allowing rail shipments of thermal coal.
“Every single coal port proposed on America’s west coast has been denied because of the findings of comprehensive reviews,” she writes. “But in B.C., we’re sitting here like chumps letting these polluting coal trains through without considering the dangerous impacts this product has on our communities.”
Ross is urging Dogwood supporters in B.C. to write to their MLAs and ask why the province is still allowing coal shipments. “This is a serious victory for the climate, one that I happily celebrate,” she says. “But for B.C.? It’s just plain embarrassing.”