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National associations join MBT lawsuit

National trade and resource associations and several states are joining Millennium Bulk Terminals’ (MBT) lawsuit against Governor Jay Inslee and his administration for obstructing the company’s proposed export terminal from progressing through the permitting process.

Lighthouse Resources, Inc., MBT’s parent company, filed a lawsuit in January against the Inslee administration for unlawfully denying the company permits that are required for project approval. The company is now six years and two months into its permitting process.

And now, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the American Farm Bureau (AFB), the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and the National Mining Association (NMA) have filed an amicus brief on May 2 in support of MBT’s lawsuit against the Inslee administration for impeding progress of the business’ project.

Linda Kelly, Senior Vice President and General Council at NAM, told Lens: “The association is very concerned about the misuse of the permitting process to pursue an agenda that interferes with the federal government’s constitutional right to control foreign trade.”

She added that the court’s decision could set a precedent which could apply to any type of exported manufactured good if the court allows the state to obstruct foreign commerce.

“The real reason that we jumped in as a national group was to show our position in the case, because it does have very serious implications beyond the current circumstances.

“Presumably, the project would get its water permit if the exports were wind turbines…you can’t have a system where you are only allowed to export what the state where the port is located approves of.”

Manufacturers are heavily reliant on the ability to access markets outside the United States, she added, and any interference with that ability is concerning.

“It is now in the hands of a federal court. They are respectful of what the constitution dictates, and hopefully we will get a good outcome in this case.”

Mike Bridges, President of the Longview/Kelso Building and Construction Trades Council told Lens the additional support across the nation validate sMBT and labor in their position that the company has met the necessary requirements to earn its permits.

“If we start applying the same standards of the denial of permits based on the things they have been denying Millennium, it will hurt more of that stuff tied to the fossil fuel industry; it will affect agriculture or anything that is imported or exported up and down the river or on the rail.”

He added that manufacturers need to get their products to market just like any other export.

“If the project will be built or denied based on how much ship or rail traffic will increase by its operation, then everybody will be affected by that, it’s not just any one commodity or group.”

On May 9, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Kansas and Nebraska also filed a joint amicus brief backing MBT, as reported by Keep Washington Competitive (KWC).

In its filing, the six states noted the Inslee administration’s “long-documented public opposition to fossil fuels.”

The states continued: “The Defendants are trying to force on other states their policy preferences regarding the use of coal as a source of fuel, and thus, they are impeding the free flow of commerce. Today it is coal, tomorrow it could be natural gas or non-organic produce. The interests of the interior states in developing foreign trade are not subject to the barriers erected by the policy whims of states that control access to international markets through their ports.”

Bridges added that he anticipates that the extra backing from the national associations and the states will raise awareness among the public, as well as ports and businesses that rely on shipping and the rail corridor.

“I hope the general public will understand that this is bigger than this project and bigger than the commodity we are discussing which seems to be holding it up, even though it meets all the requirements of the environmental process.”

Mike Richards grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA with a degree in Multiplatform Journalism and a minor in Public Relations. He wrote and published articles at Pittsburgh’s NPR station covering a variety of topics.

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