We support Millennium Bulk Terminals and its project in Longview because we know what it will do for us locally, and for the end-users globally of the products it plans to ship through the port.
A column by Seattle-based environmentalist Clark Williams-Derry [“Longview coal terminal is a road to nowhere,” April 24, Opinion] highlights the disconnect between those who live in Seattle and the rest of our state.
Folks in Seattle are well familiar with the economic boom now occurring in the Puget Sound region. Billions in new money are fueling downtown tower cranes as far as the eye can see, several new sports-arena proposals and scores of expensive new homes.
Unfortunately, it’s not a realistic picture of our entire state, and it’s time we all took a look outside the bubble at the rest of Washington, where many people are still struggling just to keep their families together and pay rent.
In our hometown of Longview there exists a very different economic reality — the reality of a second Washington that still faces an unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, which is about double that of King County.
Longview is a working-class town built on the natural resources industry with a deep-water port on the Columbia River. Our town has weathered multiple economic downturns. Fortunately, we have a well-established industrial area that is still home to a handful of major global manufacturers who rely on the port to export everything from forest products to agricultural commodities. And now we are looking to add coal to that export mix. Millennium Bulk Terminals will phase in shipments of coal to Asia, expected to total 44 million metric tons annually at full build out.
And yes, contrary to the thoughts of some Seattle-based environmentalists, we do understand what’s at stake.
Because we live here.
We know what it means to live in a manufacturing town. And we support Millennium Bulk Terminals and its project in Longview because we know what it will do for us locally, and for the end-users globally of the products it plans to ship through the port. We do this with our eyes wide open, knowing that people in countries like Japan and South Korea need energy resources from a stable political ally to supplement alternatives like natural gas from Russia, or intermittent resources like wind and solar.
We also do this knowing that a new export terminal would bring 2,650 new jobs to an area of the state eager to put people back to work. Our unemployment rates speak volumes, as do the large number of our families who have to rely on free-and-reduced lunches in our schools each day. Finding family-wage jobs is tough. Some skilled-trades workers currently drive hundreds of miles outside Cowlitz County each day for work.
Without the tech boom that Seattle has enjoyed, our community has had to look for other economic opportunities that play to our strengths as an industrial community with access to major trade routes.
The terminal would be an asset to the state’s trade network, providing private investment in rail and other infrastructure to help ensure rapid delivery of other commodities. It would add $5.4 million in annual tax revenue for schools and public services. At a time when state revenue is needed most, we’ve suddenly become very picky about where that tax money should come from — which works if you live in the Seattle bubble.
This project has endured the most rigorous scrutiny ever by state regulators under the most stringent environmental standards in the country. For five years, the Department of Ecology has exhaustively examined the project, dismissing concerns about coal dust. If we’re going to oppose industrial activity, impose endless regulations and cherry-pick export commodities, where does that leave Cowlitz County?
Our friends and colleagues in Longview know what’s at stake with this proposal: our future, and our children’s future.
So we invite you, and others, to visit Longview. We don’t have a lot of fancy buildings or high-end condos or construction cranes. But we have kids, families and hardworking people — people who desperately just want to do their jobs and support their community here in Longview.