The state says Millennium Bulk Terminals is partially to blame for the holdup in permitting a proposed coal terminal in Longview.
New details about what caused the months-long delay in an environmental study of the $643 million terminal were released Friday evening.
The delay was partially caused by a need for more analysis and partially by the company submitting information late and delaying a contract approval, according to the state Department of Ecology.
It’s been more than three years since Millennium submitted its application for permitting. Ecology said it’s currently working with two other agencies — Cowlitz County and the Army Corps of Engineers — to release a new target date for its extensive environmental review.
The three co-leads of the review had agreed with Millennium Bulk Terminals last year that they would work to release a draft environmental impact statement by November. It was announced Thursday that date would be pushed back to sometime in 2016, but no specifics were provided.
The announcement is a major block for Millennium. Its proposed 44 million metric ton export terminal would take railroad shipments of coal from Wyoming and Montana and ship it to Asian markets. The plant would generate 135 permanent jobs, according to the company, and would cause eight round-trip train visits a day through the Longview industrial corridor, plus 840 vessel trips annually.
Chase Gallagher, a spokesman for the state Department of Ecology, said there were a combination of factors causing the delay including:
- The consultant conducting the study, ICF International, realized there was a need for “additional analysis in areas we were already studying that was spurred by the initial findings.” Gallagher said “that’s a normal part of the study process … that was understood and in the contract approved by (Millennium) and the co-leads.”
- Reports on transportation effects; demolition of buildings; and effects on drinking and groundwater were due in September 2014. Millennium did not provide those until December 2014.
- Millennium did not approve a contract amendment until November 2014, when it was originally scheduled for September 2014.
- Since October last year the Corps has been working with Millennium to provide information on cultural resources but critical information was not provided until late August this year.
Millennium denied submitting anything in late.
“There were no late submittals nor late approvals; in each case requested work was completed and then the goalposts were moved,” said Bill Chapman, president and CEO of Millennium, in a statement Friday night.
“Although such problems occur inevitably in the regulatory process, we understand the agencies have all been working to keep this project moving forward,” he said. “We’re committed to moving this process forward, are confident we’ll earn our permits and break ground on a world-class port in 2017.”
Millennium supporters expressed concerns about the effects of the delay on other prospective projects.
“I cannot understand why this company is being treated like this,” Ted Sprague, Cowlitz Economic Development Council said. “If this was happening to Boeing there would be legislators up in arms.”
Sprague said it doesn’t help Washington’s reputation as a state that’s difficult for industry.
Coal opponents defended the move for a more thorough investigation.
“I don’t think it’s turning off industry at all,” said Sandra Davis, vice president of Citizens and Landowners for a Safe Community. “Longview has a lot of opportunities. We just have to get the right type of industries here.”