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Millennium coal terminal project moves forward with release of EIS

After a number of delays,the Washington state Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County, Wash., releaseda draft environmental impact statement for the proposed project.

"This major milestone moves us one step closer tocreating family-wage jobs in Longview, while meeting Washington's strict environmentalstandards," Bill Chapman, CEO for Millennium Bulk Terminals, said in a newsrelease. "We will build this project right and honor the longstandingsupport we have earned from labor and the Longview community."

The project will create 2,650 direct and indirect jobs, and itwill include a private investment of $680 million in Cowlitz County, thecompany said.

The company also projects that during construction it willcontribute $43.1 million in state and local taxes and $5.4 million in state andlocal taxes yearly after becoming operational.

The permits for the project were filed more than four yearsago, but opposition from environmental groups and local community members hasslowed the process.

"Today's release of the draft EIS for Millennium Bulk Terminals, asimple dock and rail yard expansion project, is the latest step in an excessiveevaluation that has already drug on more than twice as long as it took toactually build Seattle's CenturyLink Field," nonprofit trade groupAlliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports spokeswoman Kathryn Stenger said in arelease.

"Theunprecedented demand to require Millennium to mitigate greenhouse gas emissionsthat occur on the other side of the globe will create a harrowing process thatshould terrify any Washington manufacturer or shipper looking to expand itsfacility," she said.

While this may represent a rare piece of good news for coalin the industry's currentclimate, some observers believeWest Coast export projects like Millennium Bulk Terminals and Gateway Pacific,designed for relaying coal to Asian markets, are becoming increasinglyimpractical in a financial sense.

Existing export facilities in Canada like weaker export forecastsas coal producers in the Powder River Basin have backed away from commitmentsdue to weakened demand for the resource.

Millenniumhas been investing money to clean up the proposed terminal's site, formerly Reynolds Aluminum Smelter. The smelter usedto produce aluminum for airplanes in World War II then later for use in Boeingairplanes, according to a Millennium web page. Millennium has removedunpermitted and unstable structures at the site and recycled two-thirds of the260,000 tons of materials, according to a company spokesperson.

"Millenniumis investing millions to clean up a former industrial site and creategood-paying jobs to improve our economy," Stenger said. "Washington has the most trade dependent economy in thenation, and adding port capacity is essential for shipping all commodities—fromapples and wine to coal and timber—to willing overseas trade partners."

The public will have a chance to comment on the draft EISfor the next 45 days, until June 13 at 11:59 p.m., and during three publichearings in Washington. The hearings are scheduled on May 24 in Longview, May26 in Spokane, and June 2 in Pasco.