Lighthouse Resources, Inc., the parent company of Millennium Bulk Terminals (MBT), this week filed a federal lawsuit against Governor Jay Inslee and members of his administration, alleging that MBT has been unlawfully denied permits necessary for project approval. Proponents of the project say the state’s actions put future tax revenue and job creation in danger.
“It’s no secret that Washington state officials are philosophically opposed to coal,” said Everett King, President and CEO of Lighthouse, in a recent news update. “But that does not give them legal authority to discriminate against this project and block foreign trade and interstate commerce.”
Lighthouse is a Salt Lake City-based energy supply chain company that also owns and operates coal mining businesses in Montana and Wyoming.
The company filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on January 3. Lighthouse stated it was seeking a court declaration that the State unlawfully denied necessary permits, as well as an order directing Inslee and his administration to continue processing current and future permit applications.
“In particular, these officials have unreasonably denied and refused to process permits for the proposed coal export facility due to their political views against coal,” Patrick Creighton, spokesman for Lighthouse Resources, told Lens.
“These actions have impacted every aspect of our business,” he added, “Not to mention undermined trade with our allies and trading partners in Asia. “
In its complaint, the company asserted that Inslee, Commissioner of Public Lands Hillary Franz and Ecology Director Maia Bellon have denied crucial permits for MBT which in turn has stifled state job creation and tax revenue generation, while also making it difficult to meet Asian coal demand.
The company stated that Inslee and his administration have stalled the processing of MBT’s permits without legal reason, and their discrimination places an excessive burden on foreign and interstate commerce, violating the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause.
“It’s nice to see the parent company getting involved and backing up what we’ve been hearing from Millennium that they are basically not going away from this,” said Mike Bridges, President of the Longview/Kelso Building and Construction Trades Council. “If anything, they are going all in and this is for the long haul.”
Bridges added the lawsuit should help Millennium get back on track and help create something positive from the five years and 10 months inside the permitting process.
In July, the company received its critical areas permit, the first of several required for final project approval. Last fall, its water quality and shoreline permits were both denied. Shortly after, MBT appealed both decisions.
“The governor’s office and everyone you talk to in the state always talks about what a trade-dependent state we are and that’s what we pride ourselves on and being business friendly,” said Bridges.
“…what we are seeing, especially with our projects in Southwest Washington, is just the opposite of that as far as the results and actions taken by Ecology,” which include bias on the type of commodity handled, Bridges continued.
Lighthouse already moves coal across Washington to Canada where MBT has contracts in place, he said. “The actions Ecology and the governor’s office is taking is really stopping nothing. All it’s doing is stopping job creation in Southwest Washington.”
Keep Washington Competitive (KWC) was also vocal about the state’s handling of proposed development projects.
“It is not surprising, yet for those that care about the future of our state, it is concerning that Millennium Bulk Terminals had to file a federal lawsuit today challenging the severely broken nature of the state of Washington’s process for reviewing new infrastructure projects,” wrote KWC in a recent statement.
A spokeswoman from the governor’s office said Inslee’s staff will not comment on the pending litigation, but added the governor “appreciates the work done by the state Department of Ecology to review and evaluate the Millennium Terminal.”