Proposed Southwestern Washington Coal Export Terminal Dealt A Blow By Appeals Court

A coal mine operation in Wyoming. CREDIT: KATIE CAMPBELL/KCTS9
A coal mine operation in Wyoming. Coal from the state is shipped by rail to West Coast export terminals. CREDIT: KATIE CAMPBELL/KCTS9

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A coal company has been dealt another legal blow in its attempt to build an export terminal on the lower Columbia River.

The Washington Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling Tuesday that was being challenged by Millennium Bulk Terminals and Northwest Alloys Inc.

During the past decade as many as six projects have been proposed to transport coal by rail from Wyoming to ports in the Pacific Northwest. From there, the fossil fuel would be shipped to Asia. All but one — the Millennium Bulk project in Longview, Washington — has folded.

That project’s backers had gone to court after being denied a sublease of state-owned, sub-aquatic land at the Columbia in 2017.

A Washington superior court rejected their challenge. And now, the Washington Court of Appeals has upheld that decision.

If built, Millennium would be the largest coal export facility in North America, sending up to 44 million metric tons across the Pacific annually. Opponents have fought projects like Millennium, saying they posed the immediate environmental risks of water pollution from a derailment along the Columbia and air pollution from coal dust escaping from train cars.

Environmental opposition also has focused on the contribution that burning coal — among the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels — makes to global climate change and the problems that follow: more intense wildfire seasons, sea level rise, melting glaciers and the extinction of plants and animals that can’t adapt.

“The people of the Pacific Northwest strongly opposed dirty coal,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, in a prepared statement. “And we won. [The] decision will prevent the shipment of climate-wrecking coal around the world.”

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