Subscribe for 17¢ / day

Millennium Bulk Terminals hopes to export 80 million tons of coal through its proposed west of Longview terminal, nearly 15 times more than the company originally stated in its application for county permit, according to internal company e-mail disclosed Thursday.

The revelation, contained in a Dec. 22 note from Ambre Energy CEO Edek Choros, could be another blow to the credibility of the company, which initially announced the terminal would export 5.7 million tons annually. It follows release last week of internal company e-mails revealed that the company wanted to expand the terminal to handle 20 million to 60 million tons of coal, making it the West Coast's largest coal terminal.

Ambre is the parent company of Millennium.

In November, Cowlitz County commissioners approved a shorelines permit for Millennium' to build a 5.7 million ton terminal on the 416-acre formerly occupied by Reynolds Metals aluminum smelter. Environmental groups, including Columbia Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club, quickly appealed to the state's Shoreline Hearings Board. The State Department of Ecology has joined the challenge.

Joe Cannon, Millennium CEO, said company officials discussed a variety of options for the terminal in the 35,000 documents that Millennium submitted as part of the appeal.

"When any business develops a site, they're going to look at all kinds of things. Different people speculate on different things, and they send e-mails, and that's where they came from," Cannon said Thursday.

Millennnium officials have not sought a second permit application to export more than 5.7 million tons, he said. Rail access to the site would have to be dramatically expanded to accommodate more than the 5.7 million tons the permit allows. As the terminal is permitted now, two trains of 100 to 120 cars each would serve the site daily, affecting crossings on Industrial Way, Oregon Way and Seventh Avenue.

Washington state assistant attorney general Laura Watson, who represents the Ecology department in the appeal, declined to comment directly on the port capacity e-mails. However, she said the prospect of any project expanding beyond its stated scope raised concerns for regulators trying to gauge environmental impacts.

"You don't want to see a project's proponents trying to carve out individual parts of a project and trying to get approvals based on those individual pieces," Watson told The Associated Press.

Attorneys for environmental groups, Millennium and the state met Wednesday to discuss a settlement which could allow the appeal to be dropped and Millennium to start cleaning up the highly contaminated site but not start exporting coal, according to The Associated Press.

However, Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Hood River, Ore.-based Columbia Riverkeeper, said environmentalists are not giving up now.

"There is no settlement. Nothing has been resolved."

Cannon declined to comment or even verify that settlement talks had taken place.

The state board is scheduled to hear the appeal in April.


Load comments