Three Republican U.S. senators from coal states are sponsoring a bill to try to clear a regulatory path for a proposed Columbia River dock in Washington state that would handle Montana and Wyoming coal.
Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said Wednesday they want to limit review of water-quality impacts for projects to on-site activities and require more extensive certification from state regulators.
The aim is to speed up permitting for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal dock in Longview, Wash., which would be North America’s largest coal terminal if built. The project is the last standing of a half-dozen Pacific Northwest projects and has struggled through financial troubles and opposition from environmentalists.
Daines and Barrasso say the Millennium terminal could support hundreds of jobs at Montana and Wyoming mines in the Powder River Basin seeking to export to Asia. They called the federal Clean Water Act "a weapon to prohibit coal exports."
This year, a judge upheld a decision by the Washington Department of Ecology denying project developers a water-quality permit. The agency said the company did not have an adequate plan to protect the Columbia River from coal dust at the site and from trains traveling from Montana and Wyoming mines to the terminal.
Everett King, CEO of Millennium owner Lighthouse Resources, said the new legislation will ensure that Clean Water Act decisions remain about water quality and not used for an improper purpose.
Daines says it’s wrong for Washington state to block access for Montana and Wyoming coal exports.
“This bill will ensure our state’s abundant resources are no longer gridlocked by activist bureaucrats and will spur high–paying Montana jobs, empower our Tribes, and importantly, strengthen our national security," Daines said.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox called the new bill an important step to de-politicize the environmental review process.
"Montana is a commodity-rich state, and our businesses need reliable access to overseas markets," he said.