05.21.21

Daines Defends Montana’s Right to Energy and Agriculture Exports

Reintroduces Bill to Ensure Montana’s access to markets

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines reintroduced a bill that would prevent blue states from politicizing the water certification process and shutting down projects such as the Millennium Bulk Terminal, which could have created hundreds of Montana jobs, including tribal jobs, by expanding trade opportunities for Montana coal.

“With President Biden’s attacks on made in America energy, it is critical that Congress removes unnecessary roadblocks that are locking up Montana’s rich natural resources,” Daines said. “Washington State abused the water quality certification process to block the Millennium Bulk Terminal, which would have created high paying jobs for Montanans including the Crow Tribe, and had the potential to provide increased access to international markets.”

The legislation clarifies that Section 401 of the Clean Water Act cannot be used as a weapon to prohibit states like Montana from trading, exporting, or moving their products to regional or global marketplaces.

For bill text, click HERE.

The “Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2021” would:

  • Clarify that the scope of a section 401 review is limited to water quality impacts only;
  • Clarify that states, when evaluating water quality, can only consider discharges that would result from the federally permitted or licensed activity itself – not from other sources;
  • Require states to publish clear requirements for water quality certification requests; 
  • Require states to make final decisions on whether to grant or deny a request in writing based only on water quality reasons; and
  • Require states to inform a project applicant within 90 days whether the states have all of the materials needed to process a certification request.

Background:

Daines was a lead cosponsor of this bill in the 115th and 116th Congresses.

Today, there is a large demand for Montana’s clean coal in Asia that can help foreign countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions while meeting their energy demand. Despite this, the State of Washington blocked the construction of the Millennium Bulk Terminal, which is the point of access for Montana coal to make its way to Asia.

In 2018, Daines sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking them to expeditiously complete the environmental review of relevant permits for the Millennium Bulk Terminal. Review of the project was halted after the State of Washington denied the project a water quality permit based on factors unrelated to water quality, contrary to statute and congressional intent. Daines letter also urged the Corps to determine the State of Washington has waived its authority to issue a water quality permit, removing any obstacle to issuing the federal permit.

Daines also pushed for congressional action to stop the abuse of power by Washington State to construct the terminal and get Montana’s clean coal into Asia’s markets.

This terminal would have allowed coal from Montana’s Decker Mine, Spring Creek Mine and the Crow’s Big Metal Project to have access to Asian markets. An operating terminal would have created an estimated 300 to 400 high-paying mining jobs – most of them in Montana.