SEATTLE – Plans for a major West Coast coal export facility, the subject of an intense fight over greenhouse gases and U.S. coal supplies to Asia, took a new turn this week when Millennium Bulk Terminals Inc. announced it was withdrawing its permit for the facility near Longview, Wash.
The company – faced with intense public opposition when it was revealed that it was quietly talking about building a facility up to 14 times bigger than it had publicly admitted – said it will submit a new application to allow full public discussion of all development alternatives.
“To show our continued commitment as a good neighbor, we will do an Environmental Impact Statement to address concerns that have been raised about this project, and we will ensure that all parties continue to have a voice in the process going forward,” Joe Cannon, CEO of Millennium, said in a statement.
In a reflection of the massive market demand for bringing Montana and Wyoming coal to Asia, plans have also been unveiled to build the West Coast’s largest shipping, stevedoring and warehousing facility in northern Washington.
The proposed Gateway Pacific terminal near Bellingham already has agreements to ship 24 million tons of coal a year to Asia.
Residents in Bellingham and Longview have raised concerns about traffic congestion from delivery trains and pollution from coal dust.
In Longview, the company had applied for a shoreline permit to export about 5.7 million tons of coal a year, primarily to China. But documents disclosed as part of a lawsuit against the project revealed that company officials had discussed coming back and gaining permission to export up to 80 million tons a year.
“Millennium was trying to hide the serious public health impacts and traffic congestion caused by thousands of dirty coal trains and a dusty terminal,” said Brett VandenHeuvel of the group Columbia Riverkeeper. “Millennium got caught being dishonest and was forced to withdraw their permit.”
Environmental organizations, represented by the group Earthjustice, had been on the eve of trial in a suit challenging the failure to measure the project’s likelihood of generating new climate-changing greenhouse gases, including those emitted when Montana coal is burned in China.