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New revelations heat up Longview coal port fight

longview coal port_0.jpg
Tom Banse
The coal export terminal would utilize the former Reynolds Aluminum smelter property in Longview, WA.

Previously undisclosed documents are raising questions about whether the Australian company trying to build a new coal export facility in Longview has tried to snooker local officials.

According to an article in the New York Times, documents show officials at Millennium Bulk Terminals “tried to limit what state officials knew about its long-term goals during the early permitting process last year.”

The company’s application says the facility could export up to 5 million tons of coal a year. But the record shows the company hoped to quickly scale up to as much as 60 tons annually.

"Too sensitive a juncture ..."

Opponents of the project are jumping on the revelations to say Millennium, an offshoot of Ambre Energy of Australia, is deliberately trying to pull the wool over the eyes of permitting officials. They point to one memo in which a company official warns, ““We are [at] too sensitive a juncture to raise the plans to build a second berth.  The community is small and the risk to the current permit path is too large.”

In a press release, the coalition of community and environmental groups opposing the coal export terminal says:

“The documents clearly show that the companies hid the full scope of the project in hopes that county and state officials would quickly approve the smaller piece of the project, and that they consciously planned to wait until several months after they had permits in hand before revealing the rest of their … plan.”

The company says it was just exploring possible ideas for future expansion that it didn’t plan to pursue in the near future.

“I can’t put a really nice face on what he said,” Millennium chief exec Joe Cannon told the New York Times. “This is like an engineer talking to other engineers about this strange new process in the state of Washington.”

Officials at the Washington Department of Ecology say the new information has “raised eyebrows” at the agency, but will withhold judgment as it reviews the entire project.

Liam Moriarty started with KPLU in 1996 as our freelance correspondent in the San Juan Islands. He’s been our full-time Environment Reporter since November, 2006. In between, Liam was News Director at Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon for three years and reported for a variety of radio, print and web news sources in the Northwest. He's covered a wide range of environment issues, from timber, salmon and orcas to oil spills, land use and global warming. Liam is an avid sea kayaker, cyclist and martial artist.
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