Millennium coal terminal gets first permit from Cowlitz County (The Colombian)
Millennium coal terminal gets first permit from Cowlitz County
LONGVIEW — Millennium says it has entered a “new phase” in its five-year effort to build one of North America’s biggest coal terminals after Cowlitz County officials issued the first permit needed for the $680 million project.
Cowlitz County Building and Planning officials confirmed Wednesday that they’ve issued a Critical Areas Permit, the first of eight permits the company needs from the county.
Overall, the company needs 23 permits from various federal, state and local agencies. Yet Millennium officials say this is an important first step in permitting the Columbia River terminal.
“Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview has entered a new and exciting phase with the receipt of our Critical Areas Permit,” said Bill Chapman, Millennium CEO and president in a prepared statement. “Today this project took another significant step forward. We are absolutely delighted to see the agencies begin permit issuance based on their extensive Environmental Impact Statement.”
Opponents have 30 days to appeal the Critical Areas Permit to Cowlitz County. Power Past Coal, a coalition of several environmental groups, is still evaluating whether or not it will appeal, said Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, organizer with Columbia Riverkeeper.
In issuing the permit, Cowlitz County largely approved of Millennium’s proposed mitigation plan — an expansive document detailing the steps the company would take to compensate for environmental damage to the floodplain, wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat around the terminal.
“It’s not an authorization to go construct, but it’s saying, ‘Hey for all your critical area activity, this is what you’re going to have to do to be compliant,’ ” said Nick Little, deputy director at Cowlitz County Building and Planning.
Millennium has yet to receive the most significant permit from the county though: a shoreline permit, which usually is accompanied by a multi-day public hearing.
Coal opponents point out that Millennium still has several hurdles to overcome. Beyond permitting, the company is appealing a decision by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to deny an aquatic lands sublease needed for the project.
Permitting for the Longview coal dock has stretched on for five years. At full built out, the terminal would export 44 million tons of coal annually — boosting U.S. coal exports by 40 percent.