Labor urges passage of Millennium Bulk Terminals permit to boost economy, create jobs

Labor leaders are calling on Cowlitz County to approve Millennium Bulk Terminals’ shoreline permits in order to offer local jobs for workers and to help power the county’s economy. Photo: Mary E. Guiney

Members of the labor community have taken a strong interest in urging Cowlitz County to approve shoreline permits for the proposed export terminal project in Longview. They argue Millennium Bulk Terminals (MBT) has properly followed the state and county’s environmental guidelines and deserves to build its terminal to help power the economy and supply local workers with jobs close to home.

The proposed project would create 2,650 direct, indirect and induced jobs and $435 million in economic activity. Once operational, the terminal would provide 135 jobs, $2.2 million in state tax revenues and $1.6 million in county tax revenues annually.

In July, MBT received the Critical Areas Permit, which covers the surrounding wetland and fish habit areas. The permit was first of 16 permits needed for final approval.

On September 26, the Department of Ecology (DOE) denied the company its water quality permit due to “unavoidable harm” to environmental areas including air quality, rail safety and vessel traffic. Labor and business stakeholders dubbed the decision unfair, calling the move dangerous to the future of economic development in Washington.

The labor community vocalized its support for the project in a letter sent to the Cowlitz County Hearings Examiner, urging the county to approve the project’s shoreline permits.

Mariana Parks, spokesperson for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, said the letter highlights labor’s willingness to continuing supporting the project even after the Department of Ecology denied MBT’s water quality permit.

“This letter reflects very real and deep-seated concerns about the lack of support for family-wage jobs in Southwest Washington and the genuine need for apprenticeship opportunities to build the next generation of skilled labor in our state,” said Parks. “This project will yield tangible economic benefits for the people of Longview, in a community built for these kind of trade and export investments.”

The letter’s signers come from unique backgrounds and sectors. They included:

  • Larry Brown, Legislative and Political Director for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) 751;
  • Lee Newgent, Executive Director of the Washington State Building & Construction Trades;
  • Mike Bridges, President of the Longview/ Kelso Building Trades Council;
  • Matthew Hepner, Executive Director of the Certified Electrical Workers of Washington;
  • Shane Nehls, President of Ironworkers Local 29; and
  • Shannon Stull, Business Manager for the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LiUNA) 335.

In the letter, labor leaders highlighted the project’s benefits, especially for the local workers

and the economy of Cowlitz County.

“There has to be a balance between jobs and the environment, and Millennium has taken significant steps to demonstrate its commitment to both,” wrote the signers. “Millennium Bulk Terminals would bring significant long-term benefits to the people of Cowlitz County and the surrounding area.”

Labor leaders also emphasized the project’s ability to both power the state’s economy and prepare for future development.

“This project would add significant capacity to Washington’s trade infrastructure and enhance our state’s trade-based economy. As the most trade dependent state in the nation, Washington needs projects like Millennium to grow its trade infrastructure capacity for all commodities. Increased rail and ship traffic is what built Washington’s economy and we should welcome the opportunity for more,” the letter states.

Hepner said the project would be a vital addition to the local community.

“The economic benefits that Millennium would bring to Cowlitz county are huge. We are talking about a lot of good family wage jobs,” he said. “That section of Washington hasn’t recovered economically as well as some of the urban centers have… it’s about time they get some of the recovery as well.”

Labor has a unique stake in the negotiations, he added, where members would be able to work close to home instead of traveling to find work. The terminal would also open doors for apprenticeship opportunities.

“The area can start training its next generation of electrical workers,” he added. “Everyone has heard of the demographic cliff with baby boomers retiring. This is a great opportunity to start training that next generation of skilled tradesmen and craftsmen.”

Public comments on the shoreline permit are due on November 1, with the county set to hold a hearing the following day.

“We are doing everything we can to help it get approved,” said Hepner. “The number of hoops that Millennium has jumped through on this is astounding. We’re lucky they are still even considering building here.”

He added his members would be attending the hearing to show support for the project to continue fighting “until the end, or until we get it built.”

 

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