Millennium Bulk Terminals Longview

Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview proposed building the largest coal expert terminal in North America in Cowlitz County along the Columbia River.

Federal court rules in favor of Ecology – Dec. 11, 2018

A U.S. District Court dismissed portions of a lawsuit on Tuesday, Dec. 11, that were filed against Ecology by Lighthouse Resources Inc., a company seeking to build and operate a coal export terminal (Millennium Bulk Terminal) on the Columbia River. Lighthouse argued two federal laws preempted Ecology’s ability to deny a water quality permit for the proposed terminal.

Federal District Court Judge Robert Bryan found that those federal laws do not apply to the proposal and therefore would not preempt Ecology’s authority under the federal Clean Water Act to deny a water quality certification for such projects.

Millennium Bulk Terminals denied water quality permit

In September 2017, Ecology denied a water quality permit because of the project’s potential harm to the Columbia River and surrounding environment.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, Millennium cannot build the a proposed coal export terminal without the required water quality permit.  

Decisions appealed

Millennium appealed our permit denial to Cowlitz County Superior Court and the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board. Superior Court dismissed Millennium's appeal, while the Hearings Board upheld Ecology’s decision in August 2018. Millennium has since appealed the Hearings Board decision to Cowlitz County Superior Court where a court date is set for December 2018.

Basis for denying the water quality permit

Since 1972, Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act has given states the responsibility to issue a water quality certification for projects requiring federal permits or licenses. The Clean Water Act directs states to use both federal and state standards in determining whether there is reasonable assurance that a project will not harm water quality.

We reviewed Millennium Bulk Terminals' Section 401 application and found that the proposed project would cause irreparable and unavoidable harm to the Columbia River. Specifically, our review found that the project would:

  • Require driving 537 pilings into the riverbed.
  • Destroy 24 acres of wetlands.
  • Eliminate five acres of aquatic habitat.
  • Increase ship traffic on the Columbia River by 1,680 trips a year.
  • Impair tribal access to protected fishing sites.

Based on these findings and the broader unavoidable significant environmental impacts found in an Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Cowlitz County and Ecology, we rejected Millennium’s 401 water quality certification.

Because we believe the environmental harm potentially caused by the project cannot be mitigated, we rejected the application “with prejudice,” meaning that the company cannot reapply to build and operate the same proposal.

Documents

Timeline

2018 2017 2016 2014 2013 2012

Frequently asked questions

Can the coal export terminal be built if Ecology denied the water quality permit? How many permits have been denied so far? Why is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers restarting its permitting process? Why did Ecology deny the water quality permit? What kind of water quality impacts were projected? Were there additional reasons for denying the water quality permit? What does it mean to deny the permit with prejudice? Has Millennium legally challenged Ecology’s decision? How many lawsuits has Millennium filed? Does the EIS say Millennium’s proposal will protect water quality? Have there been any health impact studies?