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Coalition pressuring Inslee to streamline coal terminal permit process

Coalition pressuring Inslee to streamline coal terminal permit process

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A coalition of business, labor and local government leaders is urging Gov. Jay Inslee to speed up the permit process for two coal terminals proposed in Washington, including one in Longview.

In a letter sent Thursday, members of the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports asked Inslee to take a similar pro-business stance as he did earlier this month with Boeing. In a news conference, Inslee, a Democrat, announced he would explore tax breaks, transportation improvements and other incentives to encourage the aerospace giant to build its new 777X plane in Washington.

Longview City Councilman Mike Wallin was among the 30 signees of the letter.

In March, Inslee joined Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber in asking the federal government to conduct a massive environmental study of all proposed coal terminals in the Pacific Northwest. Coal industry supporters argued such a study was unnecessary, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials later said they are unlikely to grant the governors’ request.

Two companies have filed to build coal terminals near Longview and Bellingham. Millennium Bulk Terminals wants to build a $643 million dock at the former Reynolds site west of Longview, and SSA Marine has proposed building a $600 million facility in Whatcom County.

A coal barge dock has also been proposed in Oregon at Port Westward near Clatskanie. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Friday awarded three preliminary permits for the project at Port Morrow, where developer Ambre Energy plans to build a terminal to unload trains and load barges to transport coal to Port Westward. The agency is taking public comments on the draft permits through July 12.

The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports is arguing that rural areas need export business such as coal to fuel their economies, and big manufacturers like Boeing primarily benefit urban Puget Sound.

An Inslee spokeswoman said he supports properly reviewed industrial development.

“The governor has not taken a position on the coal export terminals. He’s been clear from day one that there are multiple industries he feels Washington is uniquely poised to lead in, including aerospace, agriculture, clean technology and maritime, but in all cases he expects these kinds of projects to be evaluated rigorously and fairly in accordance with all applicable laws,” Inslee spokeswoman Jamie Smith wrote in an email.

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