For Immediate Release: June 28, 2021
Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice, 206-719-6512
Brett VandenHeuvel, Columbia Riverkeeper, 503-348-2436
Zachary DeWolf, Washington Environmental Council, 206-771-4207
Proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals project was last of seven Pacific Northwest coal terminals proposed since 2010
WASHINGTON STATE–Today, the United States Supreme Court officially dismissed the coal industry’s last remaining legal appeal of Washington State’s 2017 decision to deny water quality permits for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export terminal, signaling the official end of the project.
Multiple courts at the state and federal levels have now held that Washington State was within its rights to protect citizens from elevated levels of air and water pollution that would have come with transporting coal through its communities.
The project’s developer, Lighthouse Resources, declared bankruptcy in December 2020 amid continued decline in demand for thermal coal and increased competition from clean energy like wind and solar. Millennium was the last project remaining of the 7 proposed coal export facilities, opposed by an unprecedented coalition of tribal nations, health, environmental, faith and community groups from across the Pacific Northwest and High Plains.
If built, Millennium would have sent up to 44 million metric tons of Powder River and Uinta Basin coal per year to Asian markets that are quickly turning away from coal-fired power. Japan, which developers cited as the primary buyer of coal from the project, recently cancelled its last planned new coal plant. The terminal would have added up to 16 trains a day between the Powder River Basin and Longview, Washington, impacting public safety response times in rail communities across the High Plains and Pacific Northwest, polluting waterways and contributing to higher rates of cancer in low-income communities, including Longview’s Highlands neighborhood.
“The coal industry’s assault on the Pacific Northwest is officially over,” said Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice attorney representing Power Past Coal member groups. “It was always a pipe dream that the industry was going to rescue itself by shipping millions of tons of rocks halfway around the world. It’s time to move on from coal and help the world through the coming clean energy revolution.”
“When we fight for what we love, we win,” said Lauren Goldberg, legal and program director with Columbia Riverkeeper. “Big Coal’s shortsighted, climate-wrecking dreams for the Columbia ignited a powerful movement to stop dirty fossil fuel infrastructure—from coal to oil to fracked gas. People’s passion for clean water and our climate is unstoppable. The fossil fuel industry doesn’t stand a chance.”
”As a practicing physician who lives in Longview along with my children and grandchildren, I see the harmful impacts of pollution every day,” said Stephen Chandler, an oncology and hematology doctor based in Longview. “Along with thousands of health care professionals, I believe that the Millennium coal project should never be constructed due to significant human health concerns. From cancers to asthma and strokes, our community cannot bear more of these burdens. If this project had been built, the increase in cancer rates expected in the Highlands neighborhood would mean more lives unnecessarily cut short. And more times we’d need to deliver bad news to distraught patients and their families. Harm would not be limited to Longview but would degrade Cowlitz County, the Columbia River, tribes that rely on the river, and all communities along the rail lines. Now we have hope for a better future.”
“As a citizen of Longview, I breathed an enormous sigh of joy and gratitude when the Department of Ecology denied Millennium Bulk Terminals the right to build the biggest, dirtiest coal facility in the US in our backyard,” said Rev. Kathleen Patton of Longview. “Breath is indeed the heart of it, because our residents are disproportionately poor and subject to poor air quality from train exhaust and other industrial air pollution. I was so proud that the State of Washington protected us from further burden to the health of vulnerable elders, children, and others with high rates of asthma and heart disease who would have suffered greatly from proximity to this monstrous contributor to climate change.”
“To Millennium’s credit, they will be leaving this property in a better environmental condition than it was in 2012,” said Longview resident Sandra Davis. “After Alcoa (the landowner) completes their Cleanup Action Plan, I am hopeful that any and all new tenants will add value to the property and protect our environment from further pollution.”
“Together we successfully resisted the powerful corporate and political forces that tell us jobs and economic benefits outweigh any concerns about health or the environment, said Dr. Stan Freidberg, who spent 37 years practicing cardiology and internal medicine in Vancouver. “There is ample evidence that increased concentrations of dangerous pollutants are associated at all levels with fossil fuel production, transport and storage. A fatal or disabling illness related to pollutants may not manifest for years after exposure. Prevention is key. Treatment years later may be fruitless in many cases. The future safety, well-being and public health of our community depends on the choices we make today.”
“This massive project would have sacrificed the health of thousands of people living nearby and along rail lines in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West, all for coal executives’ longshot attempt to keep the world hooked on yesterday’s dirty energy,” said Jessica Yarnall Loarie, Senior Attorney for the Sierra Club. “Record numbers of people from the coal-fields, along rail lines, near ports, and in countries overseas have demanded something better than coal pollution. Clean energy like wind and solar has replaced coal as the world’s most affordable energy source, and the end of this misguided proposal is another opportunity to embrace progress and build a more sustainable energy system, locally and globally.”
“We are grateful for the fierce dedication of coalitions and communities across our region for persevering in this necessary fight against expanding coal in our state,” shared Alyssa Macy, CEO of Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters. “In order to write the next chapter in our great Washington story, we must turn the page away from dirty, extractive industry once and for all toward resilient, clean investments that benefit these same communities hit hardest by the fossil fuel industry. Let’s turn this page now, together.”
“From the mines to the rail-lines to the proposed ports, communities and leaders across the region came together to say we can do better. It took dedication and perseverance from so many folks, and this is finally the end to coal companies trying to bully their way into our communities to prop up a dying industry. We’ve done what we sought to do when we came together more than ten years ago: power past coal,” stated Gregg Small, Executive Director for Climate Solutions.
“After over a decade, It’s finally over. Hopefully our elected leaders will take the message and start investing in a durable economy that works for land, people and the climate instead of chasing international pipe dreams. Real prosperity comes from a diversified local economy. Coal exports were never going to be the answer,” said Steve Charter, a board member of Northern Plains Resource Council who ranches above an underground coal mine in Montana. “Pacific Northwest coal exports would have damaged land, water, and agricultural livelihoods like mine. The court’s decision is welcome news.”
“Today’s decision proves that anything is possible, even defeating the powerful fossil fuel industry when community advocates, Tribal nations, and conservation groups all work together,” said Michael Lang, Conservation Director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge. “The Columbia River Gorge, communities along the rail line, and the climate are all better off now that this massive coal terminal proposal is finally defeated.”
Power Past Coal is a Pacific Northwest regional coalition working together to stop the coal industry from building out and extracting more coal. We have collectively stopped 7 coal terminals from Coos Bay, Oregon to Texada Island, British Columbia.