A promising project for the Port of Longview

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A few days ago, the Port of Longview announced it had signed an exclusive agreement to negotiate with a prospective tenant for the old Continental Grain terminal at Berth 4. Cheers to the Port of Longview, its board and staff for landing a promising new project. This project could bring hundreds of jobs and other economic benefits to our area.

But, maybe we should hold off on proper congratulations until the project is secure.

Last September, when the Millennium Bulk Terminals project was denied a key water quality permit by the Department of Ecology for its proposed facility near Longview, Ecology's chief bureaucrat, Maia Bellon, said, “There are simply too many unavoidable and negative environmental effects for the project to move forward.”

Millennium wants to build and operate a port terminal to export coal from the western U.S. to Asia. The environmental review released by Ecology found coal dust pollution from the terminal would be well below state and federal standards. That would not be a problem. Instead, the bureaucrats claimed carbon emissions from locomotives and ships moving the coal, as well as noise and traffic delays at rail crossings, were the reasons they denied the permit.

Noise and traffic delays? Really? We need jobs.

In its decision, Ecology appears to have intentionally disregarded decades of decisions following state and federal law. The opinion is biased and blind to the economic needs of Cowlitz County.

In recent years, we've seen an inversion of the traditional notions of environmental law and compliance. The old notion was that industry was the one trying to work around the limits of environmental law. That's not the way things work now.

Today, industry follows the rules. Businesses are scrupulously compliant with environmental law. It's the state bureaucrats that work around the law. In the case of the Millennium Bulk project, in order to delay the project, Ecology had to go outside the scope of state environmental impact studies to grab data from other sources to justify its faulty opinion. Millennium is obeying law and the permitting application process. Ecology has become the unlawful one, pushing a radical agenda. This needs to stop.

The Port of Longview has an opportunity to transport an environmentally friendly product in high demand all over the world. The market demands for this product mean the Port will need to move quickly and have the re-fit for Berth 4 complete in a couple years. Of course, that will require various state permits. If the bureaucrats delay those permits by making the same logically-specious and legally-dubious arguments they have in regard to other projects, they'll kill yet another promising project for our district. We can't allow that.

If the bureaucrats kill the Port's project, reasonable people will start to ask detailed questions about the methods bureaucrats like Maia Bellon use to “run the clock out” on good businesses in rural Washington.

We need Ecology to return to its core principle mission, which is to provide reliable non-ideological, non-political data and science to local jurisdictions. Those local groups then make permitting and other enforcement decisions. It's not my goal to see Ecology defunded or to end the department — but it needs to be reformed. We need the bureaucrats to get back to being neutral and impartial advisors, not partisan activists pushing an extreme agenda.

Southwest Washington is watching. No more job-killing games.

State Representative Jim Walsh, 19th Legislative District
428 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 485-0547 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000