The Washington Department of Ecology has denied a water quality permit sought by Millennium Bulk Terminals to construct and operate the largest coal export terminal in North America.
Ecology denied the permit because the coal export terminal near Longview would have caused significant and unavoidable harm to nine environmental areas: air quality, vehicle traffic, vessel traffic, rail capacity, rail safety, noise pollution, social and community resources, cultural resources, and tribal resources.
“After extensive study and deliberation, I am denying Millennium’s proposed coal export project,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “There are simply too many unavoidable and negative environmental impacts for the project to move forward.”
Some of the environmental impacts from building the coal terminal would have included:
- filling 24 acres of wetlands,
- dredging 41.5 acres of the Columbia riverbed,
- installing 537 pilings in the river for a new trestle and docks.
This complex project, if built, would have moved 44 million metric tons of coal annually. Coal would have been piled eight stories high and 50 football fields wide at the site.
To carry coal overseas, 1,680 new vessel transits would have been added to the Columbia River, accounting for a quarter of all traffic on the river.
To carry coal to the terminal, 16 slow-moving, 1.3-mile-long trains would have passed through Cowlitz County daily. This would have compounded already significant traffic congestion during peak commute times and affected emergency responders.
Eight of those 16 trains would have been fully loaded with coal traveling west along the Columbia River and would have delayed tribes’ access to fishing sites above Bonneville Dam.
The coal terminal also would have increased diesel pollution, a toxic air pollutant, and caused an unavoidable increase in cancer risk rates in a neighborhood along the rail line in Longview.
Additional environmental repercussions are detailed in the project’s environmental impact statement published in April.
Millennium needed the state’s water quality certification under the federal Clean Water Act before it could fill wetlands and dredge the riverbed.
Millennium can appeal Ecology’s decision to the state Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office.