Despite Coal Lawsuits, Millennium Still Humming Along
By Mallory Gruben
August 11, 2019 - Hundreds of passenger cars are parked on a 15-acre site that used to be part of the Reynolds aluminum plant.
The gutted old smelter buildings now house airplane parts awaiting shipment.
And rail cars filled with coal come into the property by train, later be shipped to on the short line to Nippon Dynawave pulp and paper mill, just a mile and a half to the east.
The hodgepodge of business activity is keeping the old smelter site humming even as Millennium Bulk Terminals continues its battle to build the west’s largest coal export terminal there. Company officials say Millennium has doubled its revenue in the last two years and has added new operations to its business portfolio in the last half decade.
And while the company awaits court decisions that could decide the fate of its controversial coal terminal — which would occupy about one-third of the 540-acre property — managers say they will continue to seek new projects to fill its Longview site.
“The coal terminal project is still in litigation. It’s going to run its own legal course, and we are and continue to be optimistic about the outcome of that,” said Kristin Gaines, Millennium’s senior vice president of regulatory affairs.
In the meantime, Millennium will “continue to develop business on the remaining two-thirds of the property,” she said.
The company is subleasing property to four companies, including Octavus Storage, a car storage company, and Triumph Aerospace, an airplane parts company. Gaines declined to name the other two companies or the nature of their business, citing privacy clauses in their contracts.
Octavus Storage started leasing a 15-acre area of land on Millennium’s riverside property in 2017, according to a Fuller Group news release. The company stores cars on the property before shipping the vehicles elsewhere.
Triumph ships and store airplane parts.
Gaines said Millennium is unable to share further details on their subleasing tenants, due to the contracts. The Daily News was unable to contact representatives from Octavus and Triumph last week.
Millennium also ships coal by rail to Nippon Dynawave, which runs the paper mill formerly owned by Weyerhaeuser Co.
The company has equipment to import alumina to ship to Alcoa Wenatchee Works, an aluminum processing company. Northwest Alloys, a subsidiary of Alcoa, legally owns the site in Longview, though it’s leasing the property to Millennium.
However, Alcoa paused alumina imports for the time being, Gaines said. Millennium is keeping the equipment needed to restart imports as Alcoa deems necessary.
Millennium is also helping Alcoa clean contaminated soils on the old Reynolds Metals Co. site, as ordered by the state Department of Ecology.
Company officials estimate it will take two to three years to complete that project, after which the land can be redeveloped for other projects.
Gaines said Millennium’s current operations support manufacturing and industry in Longview. Millennium is actively seeking new business opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and storage, Gaines added.
“I am very hopeful we will be able to have some announcements around new business opportunities in the next three to six months. … We are also hoping that in that three- to six-month time period we will also be hiring,” she said.
Millennium now employs 20 full-time employees and supports about 38 other “indirect” jobs, including members of the Local 21 longshoremen union, who have a lines agreement to tie up and manage vessels at Millennium’s berth, Gaines said. In total, the company supports 58 jobs.
At least 190 acres of Millennium’s property is off limits for new businesses because because it’s reserved for the $680 million coal export dock the company wants to build. That project would create about 135 permanent jobs, according to Millennium. But it’s been wrapped up in permitting process and litigation since Millennium pitched the project in 2012.
Ecology denied the project a key water quality permit in 2017, citing health impacts caused by locomotive diesel exhaust, traffic and other problems. Since then, Millennium has filed five lawsuits against Ecology. One of those was dismissed in Cowlitz County Superior Court on March 2, 2018, but the company appealed the dismissal to the Washington State Court of Appeals.
Lighthouse Resources, Millennium’s parent company, also filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Jay Inslee, the state Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Hilary Franz and Ecology Director Maia Bellon. A hearing is still pending for that case, according to Ecology.
Lighthouse and other appellants in the case filed a request on July 3 to push the deadline to file an opening brief to Sept. 18, according to court records. But Ninth Circuit judges denied that request on July 17.
Lawyers and the courts are still determining a date for the oral arguments.
Millennium also has several state lawsuits pending hearing times. According to the Ecology site, they include;
- A state lawsuit in Cowlitz County Superior Court challenging Cowlitz County’s denial of a shoreline permit, appealing a previous decision by the Shoreline Hearings Board.
- A state public records lawsuit in the Washington State Court of Appeals against Ecology, appealing a Thurston County Superior Court decision.
- A state lawsuit in the Washington State Court of Appeals challenging DNR’s sublease denial, appealing a reversal by Cowlitz County Superior Court.
As the legal battle slowly moves along, Millennium will continue to maintain its smaller business operations and “actively promote our site to other business interests,” Gaines said.
“There are some operations that have been going on since we took over the site in 2011, and then there are some new operations that have come in the last three to five years,” Gaines said, adding that Millennium “intends to continue to operate and develop the property as a private deep water port on the West Coast.”