Montana and Wyoming are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to Washington state’s rejection of a proposed coal export terminal.
On Jan. 21 Montana and Wyoming announced they’re suing Washington state for its 2017 decision to deny Lighthouse Resources a water quality permit for its proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals project in Longview. According to the lawsuit petition papers, states like Montana see the port as an opportunity to increase coal exports to Asian markets, especially in the face of shrinking domestic prices. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, who’s running for the Republican nomination for governor in 2020, says the block is unconstitutional and politically motivated. "It was based on two things," he says. "One is they wanted to favor commerce and commodities from the state of Washington and they wanted to further their political policy positions concerning blocking the use of coal worldwide.” Washington state Department of Ecology Spokesperson Jeff Zenk says the state found the project could harm Washington waters and the surrounding areas. Among the possible impacts, he mentions, "driving 537 pilings into the river bed, destroying 24 acres of wetlands [and] eliminating 5 acres of aquatic habitat." Lighthouse Resources has fought the state’s decision in multiple failed attempts since 2017 and continues to do so. If built, the Washington-based terminal would be the only port available in the United States for Montana and Wyoming’s coal exports. According to petition documents, the port could ship up to 44 million metric tons of coal annually, mostly from the Powder River Basin. Washington state has 60 days to file a response to Montana and Wyoming’s petition.