Maritime experts from Southwest Washington heard first-hand how Washington’s extensive permitting process is affecting infrastructure investments in our state.
At a May 12 gathering of the Maritime Federation in Vancouver, representatives from two of the state’s largest private infrastructure projects, Vancouver Energy and Millennium Bulk Terminals, shared how regulatory delays are affecting their efforts to create jobs and build trade capacity for the state. Vancouver Energy is now nearly four years into what, by statute, was initially a one year permitting process; Millennium Bulk Terminals has spent more than five years. This is an unprecedented amount of time to permit port facilities.
Mark Gleason, executive director of the Maritime Federation, told members regulatory certainty is critical for the maritime sector.
“We have to have some level of predictability and certainty in order to attract private investment in our state, and that means consistent, reliable regulatory policies,” said Gleason. “Extensive delays do have tangible, direct costs and ultimately send the wrong message about economic development opportunities in Washington state. And eventually, that affects jobs.”
“We remain committed to following the rigorous and thorough permitting process in spite of the lengthened duration of the process,” said Jared Larrabee, general manager of Vancouver Energy. “Vancouver is the place – we are not looking anywhere else to build this project. We want to see this industrial land developed and people put back to work.”
Wendy Hutchinson, vice president of government and public affairs for Millennium Bulk Terminals, said $15 million and five years is a significant commitment to permitting. On April 28, the Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County finally released their final environmental impact statement.
“The recent release of the final environmental impact statement was a major milestone for our project,” said Hutchinson. “That said, the amount of time it has taken to reach this point is concerning, especially for other investors looking at siting their projects in Washington state who want to redevelop old industrial sites like ours.”
Millennium Bulk Terminals would generate nearly 3,000 direct and indirect jobs through its construction and operation. Similarly, Vancouver Energy anticipates creating more than 1,000 direct and indirect family-wage jobs.
“At the end of the day, what we are really talking about is jobs,” said Mike Bridges, president of the Longview/Kelso Building Trades, IBEW Local 48. “We’re pretty busy right now in areas outside of Longview and Vancouver. A lot of our members are working outside of the state and these two projects represent good, family-wage job opportunities here in Southwest Washington,” he said.
“Having a predictable permitting process would help move these projects along and the jobs that come with them in an area of the state that really needs this work.”