The man in charge of a stymied coal terminal proposed for Longview believes the project is unfairly being denied due to politics, not facts.
"They appear to want to put the science aside and say, 'We've already decided. We think the world should do without coal,'" said Millenium Longview President Bill Chapman.
In September, the Department of Ecology denied a water quality permit for Millenium Longview. This week, DNR refused another permit.
The letter from DNR says the project is "not in the best interest of the state," claiming that it would dredge too much Columbia River bed with no plan to dispose of it.
KING 5 asked Millenium for comment; they responded, "This is the same kind of regulatory mistreatment that drives us to use the court system."
The company is now suing the Department of Ecology.
Chapman believes Ecology Director Maia Bellon is out of line and misusing her power. Last month, she tweeted: "I have denied Millennium's proposed coal terminal in Longview. Harm to the environment would be too great."
"The tweets are clearly inappropriate. It's a campaign rather than what's supposed to be a judicious role as sort of an umpire," Chapman said. "All the things that are important to us environmentally are checked off in strong and unequivocal language. So yes, to see them come out like this just a few months later leaves one wondering."
In response to the lawsuit, Ecology sent KING 5 the following statement: "We stand by our decision to deny water quality certification to Millennium. The project would have resulted in unavoidable and adverse impacts to local air quality, vehicle traffic, vessel traffic, rail capacity, rail safety, noise pollution, social and community resources, cultural resources, and tribal resources. These impacts cannot be mitigated. Additionally, the permit application and supporting documents did not provide reasonable assurance that the project would meet state water quality standards. Greenhouse gas emissions were not a reason for denial because it was determined that those impacts could be mitigated."
But Millenium's lawsuit argues that Ecology denied their water quality permit for "impacts of every kind other than water quality," setting a dangerous precedent.
"The Denial was issued just four business days after receiving the mountain of enhanced and expanded water quality data, engineering submittals and related information that Ecology had orally requested and that Millennium had previously submitted on September 20, 2017. At no time prior to that date did Ecology ever provide the Company with a written letter articulating precisely what it needed and what Ecology alleged to be missing for it to complete the certification review process," the complaint reads. "Upon information and belief, Ecology's September 26, 2017 Denial with prejudice was the first of its kind. Ecology has never before issued a CWA section 401 applicant with an order denying a certification with prejudice. Nor has Ecology ever issued this sort of summary Denial without first providing an applicant with a written and detailed articulation of the information required for certification, and a detailed written explanation of what information it still needed from the applicant."
Millenium also points to economic benefits, creating several thousand construction jobs and more than 400 permanent ones in an area looking for ways to reduce high unemployment.
"This offers that. It's a good project," Chapman said.
Millennium has a hearing next week with Cowlitz County to secure shoreline permits for the project.