Hearings concluded this week on Millennium Bulk Terminals’ (MBT) Shoreline Substantial Development and Conditional Use Permits for its proposed export terminal in Longview. The three days of testimony had community members, representatives from labor, expert witnesses, state lawmakers and other stakeholders arguing the project would bring in additional economic activity and create local family-wage jobs.
During construction, the project is projected to create 2,650 direct, indirect and induced jobs and $435 million in economic activity. The terminal’s operation would provide $2.2 million in state tax revenues, $1.6 million in county tax revenues and 135 jobs annually.
The Shorelines Permits would allow the company to rejuvenate the project site’s aluminum smelter into handling 25 million tonnes of coal annually. MBT has indicated the first stage would include infrastructure for loading the coal off trains and two docks- one for loading ships and one for vessels awaiting cargo.
In his testimony, State Rep. Jim Walsh (R-19) urged the Cowlitz County Hearings Examiner to consider the permit at hand on its own.
“This project is essential to the economic well-being and re-development of this area,” he told attendees. “It’s a project that takes a parcel of land that has been damaged and badly used… and remediates (it) and rehabilitates (it). This is an important thing…this project is a good use of this land and this area.”
Walsh said the majority of local residents are support of the project while weighing the potential effects of the project’s construction and operations. “Not only as a source of jobs for the area, but a sign to the rest of the state and the rest of the country that this place is somewhere where you can do business, somewhere where you can have projects which are trade-based and add value to the local areas as we move product and commodity though our ports and our related areas.”
Walsh concluded his remarks by asking the examiner to make a decision based on the permit on the table instead of allowing opinions or predispositions to influence the call.
“It’s temping in processes like these to look outside of the four corners of the issue in front of you and consider broad issues of political or social or emotional interest, but what you have in front of you is a viable project and a reasonable application of the project,” he said.
Also testifying in strong support was Shannon Stull, Business Manager for Laborers Local 335.
“It’s a project that the county needs to get behind and support,” he told Lens. “It’ll bring family-wage jobs, not just during the building and construction of the new facility, but also while maintaining the facility, and they are going to do it in the safest and best way they know how to do it.”
Stull added that coal trains already go to the Port of Longview, so it would make sense to have another local stop instead of losing them to Canada. This hearing had a notably larger support than previous permit hearings, according to Stull.
“I believe most of the people against the project are people from other areas,” he said. “There’s a few people around that don’t want it, but I think the majority of them do. Longview is an industrial town – if someone can bring industry back and run it cleanly and safely,” then the community is on board.
Also representing labor concerns was Mike Bridges, President of the Longview/Kelso Building and Construction Trades Council.
“The Building Trades supports responsible and consistent environmental regulations…we believe that projects like Millennium are essential in the journey towards cleaner sources of energy, and we know that this terminal can be built and operated safely and within the environmental requirements of the law.”
“We know what it means to live in an industrial town, and we support Millennium Bulk Terminals and its project in Longview because we know that a new export terminal would bring thousands of new jobs to an area of the state eager to put people back to work,” he added.
Wendy Hutchinson, MBT’s Vice President of Government and Public Affairs, told event attendees she was honored to have support from different backgrounds and walks of life. “Millennium is committed to building and operating this project the right way by meeting the strict environmental laws of Washington State. We’re proud to have proven to so many of our neighbors we are going to fulfill that promise.”
The hearing examiner is scheduled to make his decision within 10 business days.