On Tuesday, the Washington Department of Ecology denied a critical permit to a company that hoped to ship 44 million metric tons of coal annually from an export terminal in Longview, Washington. The Washington agency declined to grant a water quality permit to Millennium Bulk Terminals, citing "unavoidable and negative environmental impacts" posed by the company’s plans to build a massive coal export terminal along the Columbia River. In addition to the direct impacts that building this facility would have on communities in North Idaho-like more train traffic and crossing delays-the coal terminal would have led to an increase of 27 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

This permit denial is a huge victory for all the ICL supporters and advocates throughout the Pacific Northwest who have advocated against the coal terminal proposal for years. ICL supporters and North Idaho community members actively commented on the proposal and even carpooled to Spokane to attend public hearings and speak out in person against increasing the number of coal trains chugging through our towns and near our clean water.

The Washington decision is especially welcome relief to North Idaho residents who have experienced four significant, train derailments near waterways in the last year alone, and who just last month witnessed a coal train derail only 20 miles upriver from Lake Pend Oreille, dumping coal in and along the Clark Fork River. Should the agency permit decision stand, the Millennium Bulk Terminal proposal would be killed, which would mean less coal trains and, therefore, a lower probability of derailments in Idaho communities or in our vulnerable rivers and lakes.

However, communities in Idaho and elsewhere along the rail line aren’t out of the woods yet. Company officials have indicated that they plan to appeal the permit decision, which leaves open the possibility for the coal terminal to move forward. ICL will continue to monitor this issue and similar issues that threaten our communities and water, such as the proposal for a second rail bridge across Lake Pend Oreille, which could also increase the risk for coal and oil train derailments.

For now though, a heartfelt thanks is in order to all those who submitted comments and provided testimony, arguing against the Millennium coal terminal. Your voice matters and has made a difference. Stayed tuned to ICL’s Facebook page and our email alerts for more opportunities to protect our water and communities from coal and oil.

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