Ecology Denies Millennium Permit on Questionable Grounds

State denies key permit based on non-water quality issues

OLYMPIA — Washington business, trade and labor leaders denounced today’s Millennium Bulk Terminals water quality permit denial by the Department of Ecology, saying the decision, based more on the rail and traffic concerns than on impact to water quality, made a mockery of the state’s regulatory review process.

“This is not how you attract business to a state, let alone one that thrives on trade,” said John Stuhlmiller, CEO of the Washington Farm Bureau. “We have a regulatory process in place for a reason, and when the state not only changes the rules mid-stream, but completely abandons the process, that’s evidence the process was flawed from the outset, and that is a very troubling precedent for any future investors looking to do business in Washington state.”

Lee Newgent, executive secretary of the Washington State Building & Construction Trades Council, said Ecology has acted in bad faith. “There are no guarantees in life, but you would expect the state to live up to its end of the deal in something like this by running a fair and timely process. But five years later, we’re seeing the real deal here. My brothers and sisters trusted that process thinking there would be a fair review of this and, frankly other energy projects. Now we aren’t sure what to think,” said Newgent. “The state, by its actions, has effectively negated any hope of major infrastructure projects in along the Columbia River and other parts of Washington state, whether it’s Millennium or Northwest Innovations. And for my members, that is a very troubling testament to the state’s lack of interest in creating family wage jobs in communities outside of King County. This is as much about jobs as it is the environment. We have to have a balance if we’re going to create jobs here in Washington that can support a family.”

Courtney Wallace, Regional Director of Public Affairs for BNSF Railway, added, “Millennium Bulk Terminals has consistently met each milestone and exceeded every requirement along the way in a regulatory review process that’s lasted more than five years. For the state to issue a denial based on arbitrary and unrelated findings beyond the scope of the state’s water quality permit review is deeply troubling. For BNSF, there is nothing more important than safely operating through the communities that we serve and in fact, we’re industry leaders in reducing derailments and improving rail safety for moving all commodities. The simple fact is that this review has been politicized from the start but we’re hopeful clearer minds will prevail on appeal.”