Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Arbitrary and Capricious


October 1, 2019

China, the world’s largest consumer of coal, imported 281 million metric tons in 2018 including thermal coal, coking coal and anthracite.

In August of this year alone, the country imported 33 million metric tons, up almost 15 percent over last August, according to data released by China’s General Administration of Customs, and the total imports for this year are up 8 percent.

China won’t be getting coal from the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals’ coal export terminal in Longview, Washington anytime soon, though. The State Commissioner of Public Lands, Hillary Franz, has won an appeal in state court, upholding her agency’s denial of a permit for a sublease needed to move the Millennium project forward. The appeal overturned a 2017 Cowlitz County Superior Court ruling that had found DNR’s decision to deny the sublease to Millennium to be “arbitrary and capricious.”

Before her election to the position of Commissioner of Public Lands, the commissioner’s business background consisted of suing companies as an environmental activist and attorney.

In announcing the decision, Commissioner Franz, who has expressed surprise in the past over the tension between environmental and economic interests, said “Washington’s aquatic lands are too important to risk on projects that are not transparent and financially sound.”

We reported in August that the Port of Kalama commission has forbidden its tenant, Northwest Innovation Works, from selling its product for uses other than those approved by the commission. The company is investing $1.8 billion in the clean-technology facility in Kalama for the production of methanol to be shipped to China for use in plastics manufacturing. The Kalama commission issued a revised lease amendment intended to prohibit the company from exporting methanol from its proposed refinery for use as a fuel.

We can’t imagine why the commission feels it has the right to tell a company how its products can be used, but the lease amendment followed an announcement in May by Governor Jay Inslee signaling his opposition to the methanol refinery after signing a bill banning fracking for oil and natural gas in Washington State.

The Northwest Innovation Works project in Kalama will convert natural gas to methanol. The methanol will then be loaded onto ships bound for China to be made into plastics and other materials.

Inslee, who was running for the 2020 Democrat party’s presidential nomination at the time, said he could not in good conscience support the continued construction of the methanol production facility in Kalama, nor a liquefied natural gas plant in Tacoma.

Governor Inslee has mandated the state reach 100-percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. That goal will be much easier to reach once industry has been chased out of the state.

Like Longview, Kalama is also in Cowlitz County, whose unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, compared to the State of Washington’s 4.6 percent. Perhaps someone in Cowlitz County would like to explain the tension between environmental and economic interests to Commissioner Franz and Governor Inslee.

Chris can be reached at


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