It feels like the TDN editorial board just finished discussing and writing about the injustice Northwest Innovations suffered at the hands of Washington state, and now the Millennium Bulk Terminals project has taken a serious setback.
The state of Washington has dealt possible death blows to more than $2 billion of investment in just the last week by denying permits to two substantial local projects.
As we discuss the two state rulings here in the office, the one word that keeps coming up is – disingenuous. The process these two businesses have been put through is disingenuous at best.
Both the Northwest Innovations and the Millennium projects are important to growing the local and regional economy. But the permit denials each project received are very troubling.
Looking at the Northwest Innovations project, the entire process followed the environmental impact statement requirements the Department of Ecology put forth.
With its decision to reverse course and pull two key permits that previously were approved, the state Shorelines Hearings Board is changing the rules in the middle of the game. The board ruled that officials failed to fully analyze the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from the project.
Can you imagine trying to build your dream home, obtaining the proper permits per law, then have the government yank the permits because they changed their mind? This is essentially what happened to Northwest Innovations. Seems disingenuous.
Would you risk $2 billion in investments working with people who change the rules whenever they want? We wouldn’t either.
And to make the Shorelines Hearings Board decision even more frustrating is the Northwest Innovations project has had the support of Gov. Jay Inslee from the outset. We’ve applauded Inslee on numerous occasions for traveling to Kalama and giving a speech supporting the project.
Inslee cannot be happy that a project he publicly supported has been treated this way.
The Millennium permitting process has been nothing short of unbelievable, and yes, disingenuous.
The permitting process is in its fifth year. That’s right, year five. The original scope has been changed during the process, so the company has suffered from the same problems as Northwest Innovations.
The draft environmental impact statement made no mention whatsoever of train traffic being a problem or causing an increased risk of cancer along the rail line.
When the train traffic issue appeared in the final environmental impact statement, it included a national study of train traffic, but failed to use data from the Burlington Northern Sante Fe locomotive fleet.
BNSF has some of the most environmentally sound locomotives in the country, but the Department of Ecology used other data instead. Sound disingenuous to you?
In their telephone press conference to the media this week, the Department of Ecology talked about denying MBT the clean water permit because train traffic would delay Native Americans access to fishing. With all the rail traffic currently going through the Columbia River Gorge, eight more trains a day will now somehow delay fishing access? Sounds disingenuous doesn’t it?
Don’t forget, the Department of Ecology tweeted a message about train traffic causing cancer when the final environmental impact statement was released. Why would a government agency do something like that? Is it because the agency is biased against the project and is willing to publicly flaunt it?
During the phone conference, the Department of Ecology also spoke of the “unprecedented” size of the project as a reason for denying the water permit. Earlier this year, the TransAlta coal operation got their clean water permit renewed and the size and scope of TransAlta’s stockpile of coal is similar to what MBT’s would be. Appears disingenuous to us.
Ecology also talked about the project requiring 41 acres of Columbia River dredging. A decade ago, thousands of acres of the Columbia River were dredged to allow for more vessel traffic. Why is another 41 acres too much? Does this seem like an honest analysis?
So what is the fallout for a state agency with an appointed director? We, the people, cannot vote the Department of Ecology’s director out of office. Maybe there isn’t any fallout, which is a little frightening.
MBT can appeal the decision made by the Department of Ecology, but after all that has happened, how much more money would you throw away fighting the state of Washington?
And with these two decisions regarding Northwest Innovations and MBT, the state effectively has put a fence around Southwest Washington, if not the entire state.
A fence is now up to keep any business out that will require more rail traffic, create more Columbia River vessel traffic, be “unprecedented” in size or scope, could delay fishing access for Native Americans or require any work in the Columbia River.
You can’t make this stuff up – you just can’t.
And yes, disingenuous.