Conservation groups say they are gearing up for a fight to stop Millennium Bulk Terminal’s proposed $600 million coal terminal west of Longview, while local officials say they are excited that it would give a much-needed boost to the economy.
Gayle Kiser, president of citizens’ group Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community, said coal terminal opponents are planning informational meetings about the company’s proposed project. She said she’s skeptical that Millennium will be able to deliver on its promises of economic development.
“After dealing with them before, I don’t trust their numbers,” she said.
Gary Lindstrom, a maritime industry consultant in Longview, said decision makers need to understand the effect on the area’s river and rail systems of exporting 44 million metric tons of coal annually.
“We have to obtain a clear understanding of the terminal’s impacts before making decisions on the project,” Lindstrom said in a release from Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community.
Others expressed concern about the last time Millennium submitted a permit application in the fall of 2010 to export 5.7 million tons. After Cowlitz County commissioners granted the company’s request, internal emails revealed officials from Millennium’s parent company planning to export 10 to 15 times more coal.
Business leaders cheered at Millennium’s estimates that the project would generate 135 full-time permanent jobs, 2,600 construction jobs and $235 million in tax revenue for local governments over the next 30 years.
“Anytime that a company is looking to put a $600 million capital investment in your county, that has to be a good thing,” said Ted Sprague, president of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council.
“There’s still a lot of questions that have to be answered about the entire project ... but I’m happy the application has been submitted. We’ve been waiting a long time,” Sprague added.
There are transportation and environmental concerns, but Sprague said he believes they can be worked out.
“It’s going to be a long road and a lot of people are going to have to weigh in,” he said. “But ultimately, when folks get their heads together we can make this work.”
Longview City Manager Bob Gregory said city leaders will need to balance the need for jobs with transportation and environmental concerns.
“From an economic development standpoint, we certainly need jobs in this community, but we certainly will look at this permit application closely, and transportation has been an area of concern the city has expressed on several occasions.”
The county is lead agency on the permit because the terminal site is outside the city limits, but city officials will be asked to comment and share any concerns, Gregory said.
As for environmental concerns, Gregory said he knows they exist but hopes most will be addressed in the planned environmental impact study.
“At this point, without the EIS, I think it’s premature to say there are or aren’t problems,” he said.