October 30, 2017
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Appeal filed over rejection of Millennium Bulk Terminals permit

Millennium Bulk Terminals is suing the state Department of Ecology (DOE) over the agency's denial of a key permit needed to build an export terminal in Longview (lawsuit PDF.) That news came the same week that a superior court judge gave the company a win in a separate case involving the Department of Natural Resources "unfairly denying" a sublease the company needs for its project. (See below for more).

The company's lawsuit in Cowlitz County Superior Court against the DOE said the state ignored its own findings from a detailed and expansive environmental impacts study that said the project would meet state and federal water quality standards. Disregarding that study, the DOE made up its own rules to unjustly deny the project, said Millennium CEO Bill Chapman. The state's permitting process has "gone off the rails," Chapman said.

“What we’re doing here is putting a spotlight on a process that has gone awry,” Chapman told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “The state’s main environmental regulatory agency is trampling over its own fact-finding in order to deny a project that is capable of meeting all applicable environmental standards.”

By presenting its case, Millennium will help ensure that other important economic development projects in the state don't face the same kind of "abuses" in the future, Chapman said. The Daily News has more.

Trade unions, business groups, and others spoke out in support of Millennium's appeal.

“This latest decision by the Department of Ecology to deny Millennium its water permit based on questionable criteria outside its purview makes me wonder if any project in our state is going to get a fair and timely review,” said Shannon Stull, secretary/treasurer of the Longview/Kelso Building Trades. “Millennium Bulk Terminals would bring significant investments to Cowlitz County, at a time when we need real, family-wage jobs. Ecology continues to politicize what is supposed to be a fair process, putting jobs on the line and risking any future investments in Southwest Washington. Millennium is right to appeal this crucial decision.”

Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, said Ecology has compromised the state’s regulatory process to a point that it is difficult for projects to receive a fair and timely hearing.

“Frankly, this is not the kind of business climate we want here in Washington state. We need clear permit guidelines and timely reviews. We’ve seen neither in the case of Millennium, where the project is now extending into its fifth year of review,” said Johnson. “Agency overreach sends the wrong message to potential investors and jeopardizes future employment opportunities, particularly in areas of the state in dire need of an economic boost. We support Millennium in its appeal going forward.”

In a separate issue, the company received good news last week when a Cowlitz County Superior Court judge ruled that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) improperly denied a tidelands sublease to Millennium to operate docks at its facility along the Columbia River.

Former Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark denied that sublease in his final days in office last January. The judge ruled on Friday that the denial was improper, and ordered DNR to reconsider the lease.

"Friday’s decision validates the concerns of many watching this process unfold. It’s clear from the decision that the judge believes the state is exceeding its regulatory authority and acting from a political perspective in these matters— not following the rule of law,” said John Stuhlmiller, CEO of the Washington Farm Bureau. “This ruling suggests a deep frustration with state regulators who seem bent on gaming the regulatory system. There are laws and processes in place, and the need to be followed, regardless of one’s political bent.”

The Seattle Times, The Associated Press and The Daily News covered Friday's ruling.

Contact Mary Catherine McAleer, AWB government affairs director for environmental and water quality issues, for more information.

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'Hirst Will Shatter the American Dream...'

Call the Legislature back to pass capital budget, fix water-rights ruling

By former Gov. Dan Evans

It's time for Gov. Jay Inslee, together with Republicans and Democrats in both houses of the Legislature, to put partisanship aside and solve two pressing problems. Washington state needs a capital budget and a fix to the state Supreme Court's Hirst decision, which has impacted homebuilding in rural areas.

As construction costs rise, every day that goes by without passage of the state's capital budget means that taxpayers will pay more for building schools and other projects, and it means that needed construction is delayed.

Equally important is modification of the law in response to the Hirst decision. Hirst will shatter the American dream for some Washington state families because they may not be able to obtain water on the properties they purchased unless the Legislature enacts a solution to that decision...

Read the full column in The Seattle Times
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