Recently, TVW’s Austin Jenkins interviewed Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) Director Maia Bellon on the public affairs show, “Inside Olympia.” Included in the hour-long discussion: a focus on the agency’s final environmental impact statement for Millennium Bulk Terminals and the requirement to mitigate foreign emissions for exported coal.
Jenkins raised concerns from industry and labor leaders about DOE’s unprecedented requirement for global climate impact mitigation. He cited concern from several groups that DOE’s analysis was “not only unfair, but perhaps even a measure being used to kill this project.” (21:55)
“The responsibility of mitigating it falls on Millennium, which is the exporter. It’s like the pass-through. It’s not going to be burning it, and it’s not going to be producing it.” (24:02)
If Millennium is responsible for coal burned by other nations, wouldn’t Boeing be responsible for the carbon emitted by its planes?
Bellon admitted what industry leaders and jobs creators have known for a long time: Millennium’s Longview terminal has been unfairly targeted because it moves energy products.
“There is no confusion, there’s no speculation. This is meant to be used as an end product for combustion. That’s what makes this a distinction.” (24:26)
DOE’s harsh review of the Longview terminal has little to do with impacts to our local environment. Concerns over coal dust have been thoroughly debunked, and the Tier-4 locomotives that would unload at the terminal meet the same environmental standards as the state’s own public transportation. Nevertheless, DOE is advancing excessive regulation at the expense of Washington’s competitive edge.
Bellon also said that this harmful precedent could affect other industries:
“It doesn’t mean that if Boeing is going to build a new plant or do some new expansion that triggers SEPA that carbon won’t be reviewed as well.” (24:45)
Boeing could supposedly account for this by building more fuel efficient aircraft, essentially mitigating in advance, she noted.
Jenkins also mentioned former Governor Gary Locke’s comments on the positive impacts coal exports have on markets in Asia. He questioned the ethics of Washington denying people the opportunity to advance their quality of life by preventing coal shipments:
“There are people in China who are still literally living by burning wood and don’t have electricity and are living in, really, Third World conditions. And that to help them transition into a more First World environment is going to require coal.” (25:53)
Jenkins also highlighted the significant burden DOE’s analysis has put on valuable infrastructure projects, and asked if there was hope for Millennium’s terminal to advance.
Bellon avoided a direct answer: “Some are saying that. I’m not saying that. I’m going to keep my regulatory hat on and do my very level best to be objective and fair,” she said. (29:48)
Despite Bellon’s claims of regulatory fairness, DOE’s actions pose a very real danger to Washington’s economy. As long as the DOE continues its obstruction of permitting for energy infrastructure, crucial projects that will advance Washington’s economic capacity and competitive power are unable to move forward.
Watch the full interview here.