Global application of a state regulatory policy unprecedented
OLYMPIA — Representatives from business, labor and agriculture said today’s final environmental impact analysis from the state Department of Ecology is a major milestone for the project, but reflects a misapplication of a state law intended to mitigate local impacts.
This morning, the Washington state Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County issued their final Environmental Impact Statement under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for Millennium Bulk Terminals. In its findings, the agency reaffirmed its earlier conclusions that coal dust was not an issue for the project, and that there were no adverse effects associated with coal dust as a result of building the terminals. However, in its final determination, the state did again call for Millennium to mitigate for any coal that is burned or used outside of Washington, a request blatantly outside of the intent of Washington’s SEPA law.
“This is truly an unprecedented application of the SEPA process, which was designed to mitigate for impacts near a projects site and within the state of Washington,” said Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business. “This sets a troubling precedent. At a time when we’re competing in a global marketplace, employers need certainty and predictability,” he said. “Regulatory decisions like this only exacerbate the review process, especially for areas of the state in need of job growth and economic development.”
The Millennium Bulk Terminals project will create 2,950 jobs and create $5.4 million in annual tax revenue in Cowlitz County. For Lee Newgent, executive secretary of the Washington State Building & Construction Trades, the project means a significant influx of new jobs for skilled trades and apprenticeship opportunities to train other workers struggling to find work in Southwest Washington.
“These are great jobs, jobs that pay well and provide life-long careers, and people in this part of the state need jobs,” said Newgent. “These regulatory decisions have really become problematic. Our members support a clean environment —we live here and we want to keep our state green. But we also need jobs and the regulatory delay on this project is unheard of – more than five years now,” said Newgent.
“Dragging this out is not good for anyone. We have the strictest environmental regulations in the country. We have to find a way to balance jobs and the environment.”
Washington Farm Bureau CEO John Stuhlmiller says rail improvements for the terminals would eventually help his members transport and export their commodities.
“It’s disheartening to watch this unfold and know that we could be doing so much more to increase our rail and export capacity. We’re the most trade-dependent state in the nation, but our regulatory process continues to create barriers,” said Stuhlmiller. “Decisions like this just send the wrong message about our trade and export policies and infrastructure, especially where one in four jobs is linked to trade. It’s unacceptable.”