Despite promises of jobs, tax money, Haven finds rough road in Longview

Marissa Luck, February 21, 2015, The Daily News

 

Economic details of Haven export terminal

 

During the construction period, the project would create:

 

  • More than 2,000 construction jobs

 

  • $135 million in wages and benefits

 

  • $17 million local, state and tax revenue

 

Longview contractor JH Kelly has been preapproved in the lease as a contractor. The company uses union labor in Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon.

 

After construction, the terminal would create:

 

  • $4 million in local and state tax revenue annually — or $40 million over 10 years

 

  • $19 million of annual spending, including Haven operations and rail/marine services

 

  • 48-57 direct jobs, including 26 to 35 company jobs and 22 rail and marine jobs

 

  • 28 indirect jobs (associated with vendors and suppliers)

 

  • 34-40 induced jobs (created from general boost in wages and taxes flowing through economy)

 

Wages and benefits will be more than twice the Cowlitz County average.

 

Haven agreed to the port’s working agreement with ILWU Local 21.

 

Sources: Haven Energy, ECONorthwest

 

Haven Energy’s proposed propane-butane export terminal at the Port of Longview promises to pump millions of dollars into the area, create dozens of high-paying permanent jobs and dramatically boost revenues at the Port of Longview. It has the support of business interests, politicians and union construction workers.

 

But union longshoremen who would work around the export terminal every day oppose the project. They say its location could significantly alter port operations and limit traditional longshore jobs. And it remains to be seen just how many of the Haven jobs actually go to longshore workers.

 

On March 10, port commissioners will decide whether to approve a lease with Haven Energy, a subsidiary of Texas-based Sage Midstream, after more than eight months of negotiations.

 

Dockworker opposition has put the commission in a political pinch: Two of the three commissioners — Darold Dietz and Lou Johnson — are former longshoremen with strong ties to Local 21 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. But the community, still in a low-gear recovery from the recession, could use the $300 million investment Haven is offering to build, most of it with local union labor.

 

More than this project is at stake, though. This debate is unfolding in the wake of labor and environmental disputes over other industrial projects, such as the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export terminal and longshore protests over the Export Grain Terminal (EGT) at the Port of Longview. Supporters fear that rejecting Haven could throttle future efforts to lure industry to the area.

 

A single mom from Longview, Stephanie Owens, 38, spotlighted the high stakes at Thursday’s port-sponsored meeting about the Haven project.

 

“We have a history of shutting down big products, and this community has suffered for it,” Owens told an audience of hundreds of people.

 

Jobs and tax revenue

 

Besides the initial $300 million investment — and an estimated 2,000 construction jobs — Haven officials say their project would generate millions of dollars in tax revenue and create up to 60 high-paying direct jobs and at least that number of spinoff jobs (see box on Page A1). Haven said these are conservative estimates provided by a consulting firm, ECONorthwest.

 

In addition, port and Haven officials say the project will generate huge lease and operating revenues for the port — which could pay for roads, equipment and other capital needs — to attract employers to the port’s Barlow Point property, for example. Both sides have declined multiple requests to disclose terms of the lease agreement until the March 10 port commission vote.

 

“I don’t know how local industry is not going to benefit from this project,” Greg Bowles, president of Haven Energy, said last week.

 

The Haven project is exactly the type of income-and tax-producing development the area needs, said Ted Sprague, president of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council.

 

“As a father of three children in Longview schools, our schools could use the tax base, and to dismiss that as not important is rather insulting,” he said at the Feb. 10 port commission meeting.

 

 

Local trade union representatives say the effects of the construction project extend beyond the building period. Construction of the Temco grain terminal at the Port of Kalama, for example, led to 10 new electrician union apprenticeship positions, said Mike Bridges, president of the Longview Kelso Building and Construction Trades Council and member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

 

“We started 10 electricians. The majority of them came from this job and got an opportunity for something they’ve always wanted to do. We don’t always get an opportunity (like this),” Bridges said at the Feb. 10 commission meeting.

 

Port operations

 

Some critics, including ILWU Local 21, focus on the footprint of the project, which features two 10-story storage tanks and a pipeline reaching across the port’s laydown yard, which is used intermittently to store break bulk cargo.

 

“The loss of valuable laydown area to store cargo will impact the port’s ability to market wind turbine, steel and other project cargo,” Gary Lindstrom wrote in a letter to port commissioners.

 

Lindstrom, a marine consultant and former marketing director for the port, shared ILWU concerns that decreased laydown space would discourage shippers from doing business in Longview.

 

“The port spent millions of dollars for two Liebehrr cranes to handle project cargo. Will the cranes’ revenue generation be compromised?” Lindstrom asked.

 

 

In response to these concerns, Haven officials say they reduced the footprint of the project — originally 40 acres — to 24 acres. This would leave about 35 to 40 acres of laydown space, according to port staff.

 

Haven’s project will easily create far more revenue for the port than the laydown yard, said Geir-Elif Kalhagen, CEO of the Port of Longview.

 

“I don’t think we’ve ever stated that the Haven project scores high in jobs created, but what it does score high in is revenue for the port so we can buy new equipment and upgrade facilities.”

 

Kalhagen said there could be other areas to store break bulk cargo, although where hasn’t been determined yet.

 

Longshoremen

 

The Port of Longview has an agreement with Local 21 that, for all intents and purposes, requires businesses who lease property at the port to use Local 21 labor to move cargo. Bowles said Haven has agreed to honor that arrangement in its lease agreement with the port.

 

“I can’t envision a scenario where this would do anything but increase longshore jobs,” Bowles said. “I am hoping for all sorts of involvement with ILWU in this project.”

 

Local 21 and Haven Energy began meeting months before the port announced the project last spring. In December, the company presented the dockworkers union with a preliminary list of jobs needed at the terminal. Many of the positions require federal certifications and training, Bowles said.

 

“This project is very different than what the ILWU does right now,” he said. “Many of the jobs and tasks are not conducive frankly to a hiring hall set up. So it would require the ILWU to do things a little differently perhaps than they do now. … I’m open to whatever, depending on what the ILWU are interested in.”

 

Jason Lundquist, president of ILWU Local 21, said the union is willing to have members trained for those job functions.

 

“The ILWU performs many functions for many employers and it’s not always hiring out of the dispatch hall. We have plenty of people who work steady, but we could never have that conversation with (Bowles) because he didn’t want to have it,” Lundquist said. “Anytime the union tried to bring it up and have that conversation he’d always divert it. We put so much energy in this; we tried extremely hard to have these conversations.”

 

Bowles responded Friday that “we absolutely do want” to have that conversation. Bowles said he met with Local 21 on Feb. 2 to review the preliminary list of job functions and training needs.

 

“They had all sorts of questions, and so we went over them, and I expressed that these are our initial thoughts and we’re flexible. The meeting ended very cordially.”

 

So, Bowles said, he was “very surprised” to learn two weeks ago that Local 21 is opposing the project. He wondered whether Local 21’s opposition was related to national contract talks between the ILWU and shipping companies, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association, which were tentatively settled Friday after months of tense negotiations.

 

Lundquist said Local 21’s opposition was not driven by any national initiatives.

 

“Local 21 is and has always been, you can ask any employer they work for, has always been ready to go to work,” he said.

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