As he wraps up his final days in office, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Peter Goldmark has delivered a blow to a Longview coal-export terminal by rejecting a tidal-lands sublease needed for a loading dock.
Goldmark said the developer, Millennium Bulk Terminals, has repeatedly failed to provide information about the structure of the sublease, as well as financial and other information requested by the state.
“It doesn’t reflect well on their business credibility when they refuse to answer these important questions,” Goldmark said Tuesday.
The primary lease, which extends until 2038, is held by Northwest Alloys.
DNR officials say there is no agency appeal process for the rejection of the sublease.
But the status of the lease appears to be in dispute and could be headed to court.
The chief executive office of the developer, in a statement released Tuesday, asserted that Millennium already has a right to export coal and other bulk products for decades to come, even without DNR approval of the sublease.
“The decision today has no effect on the project,” said Bill Chapman of Millennium Bulk, who described Goldmark’s action as a “symbolic gesture” by a commissioner before he exits office.
Chapman also said Millennium has invested millions of dollars in cleaning up the site, and that DNR has acknowledged that work.
The Longview project proposes to export up to 44 million metric tons annually of Western coal to Asia. That would require up to eight coal trains a day delivering cargo to the Southwest Washington port site.
The project was launched in 2010 as rising coal demand in China and elsewhere in Asia prompted hopes of creating major new markets for U.S. coal mined in the Powder River basin of Wyoming and Montana.
But the project has faced bitter opposition from environmentalists, which helped slow the permitting process, and a major downturn in international coal prices has created serious hurdles for financing.
Environmentalists, as well as a Yakama tribal leader, praised Goldmark’s decision to reject the export terminal’s sublease.
“Commissioner Goldmark has listened to the public and given a firm no to the largest coal terminal in the country … Millennium failed to show they can protect public resources: the Columbia River,” said Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, a Columbia Riverkeeper spokeswoman for the Power Past Coal Coalition.
In a separate action Tuesday, Goldmark, who leaves office Jan. 11, expanded protections at the Cherry Point site north of Bellingham that had been proposed for a second coal terminal.
In that action, he announced 45 acres would be added to a protected aquatic reserve.
The move was praised by Lummi Nation leaders, who had opposed that coal terminal.
“This is a historic day for the Lummi, our treaty rights and our future generations,” said Timothy Ballew, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council.