Millennium Export Terminal right for Washington

The Millennium Export Terminal in Longview is an opportunity for Washington to create thousands of jobs and generate millions in revenue.

As representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – the world’s largest business organization – and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, our focus is always on job creation and economic growth. That’s why we support this critical project.

The Millennium project will take a dormant piece of land and turn it into a bustling, state of the art port terminal. The Terminal makes good on the promise of expanding our markets and selling more American products to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers that don’t live in America. Increased exports are a key component of America’s economic recovery, which is why in 2010 President Obama committed to doubling exports by 2015.

Initially, the Millennium terminal will export coal to Asia and other markets outside the United States. With global energy demand going up by 50 percent over the next 30 years, demand for coal is strong. Just as the U.S. relied on coal to grow our economy, other nations whose citizens still lack access to electricity will benefit from coal. So will the citizens of Washington, as the Millennium terminal will create over 3,000 jobs and generate $37 million in revenue to the state.

Normally, construction of projects such as this one proceed after a review and approval process led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps has held five hearings and is conducting a thorough analysis.

But in an unprecedented move, the Washington Department of Ecology has decided to conduct its own parallel process, which is inconsistent with U.S. environmental regulations.

The project’s opponents’ requests for this review are stretching legal possibilities and the truth. Their insistence on modeling the global impact of 30 years of exported coal in another sovereign nation on a continent across the Pacific Ocean is neither achievable nor legally relevant to this review. A thorough and balanced process, not hype and fear-mongering, is required.

The reality is that China and other developing nations need all the energy, including coal, that they can obtain. Developing nations will use coal; the only question is where it will be coming from. They are already buying coal from other worldwide suppliers as well as the U.S, and they are going to keep doing so regardless of whether the Millennium terminal is built.

Trade is the foundation upon which the economy of the Pacific Northwest is built, accounting for as many as one in four jobs in the region. Stopping an infrastructure project that will benefit Washington’s economy simply because some folks don’t happen to like the product being exported would set a dangerous precedent.

Furthermore, what’s happening with Millennium here is occurring all over the country, and that’s a major cause for concern.

Infrastructure projects are being sidelined completely or significantly delayed while projects are “reviewed” for years. The Keystone XL pipeline is another unfortunate example. Keystone would bring oil from Canada to the United States, allowing us to use less oil from unfriendly nations overseas. It would create jobs and generate millions in revenue for local and state governments. But the pipeline has been delayed for over five years by an endless regulatory process.

Unfortunately, America is becoming known as a place that is not open for business. Potential trading partners interested in buying American goods are well aware of these troubling signals. Investors are being scared off, because they don’t want their capital locked into projects that are endlessly delayed.

We support a thorough, comprehensive review of Millennium. No corners should be cut. But there should be a definite timeline and a date certain for an answer – instead of regulatory limbo. There is a long-established federal review process, and it should be respected. Otherwise, our opportunities for economic growth will become fewer and fewer. Given the fragile state of America’s economy and our lagging job growth, that’s the last thing we can afford.

Karen Harbert is president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Tom Pierson is president and CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.