Lummi tribe says talk of Cherry Point land grab is a fabrication



BY RALPH SCHWARTZ, The Bellingham Herald


A nonprofit with close ties to a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point is telling local and federal agencies that Lummi Nation plans to take over part or all of Cherry Point in an effort to “de-industrialize” an area that already includes two oil refineries and an aluminum smelter.

Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew called the claim a fabrication and a distraction from the tribe’s effort to halt Gateway Pacific Terminal through an exercise of its treaty rights to fish near Cherry Point and elsewhere in north Puget Sound.

“There’s just no way they could be blowing the cover on some plan we don’t have,” Ballew said.

Northwest Jobs Alliance wrote to the Whatcom County Planning Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month, asking them to oppose a tribal takeover of Cherry Point.

“It has come to our attention that there are those who would de-industrialize the Cherry Point (industrial area), but this rather radical notion would not serve the public interest,” the Alliance wrote in an Aug. 12 letter to the Planning Commission. The letter was signed by Chairman John Huntley and President Brad Owens.

Not named in the letter was Craig Cole, who is listed in the state’s corporations database as the director of the Northwest Jobs Alliance. Cole also was hired to do public relations for Gateway Pacific Terminal’s proponent, SSA Marine.

Cole said on Friday, Sept. 11, he is one of more than 100 members of the Alliance.

“I am one of the directors and support its focus on family-wage job growth and retention,” Cole said, along with “the continued viability of the Cherry Point industrial area.”

The Alliance delivered its message to the public in a press release on Thursday, Sept. 10.

The release refers to “a plan by the Lummi Nation to annex Cherry Point to its reservation.” The Alliance equivocates on just how much land it believes the tribe would take, but in some of its statements the group assumes the worst.

“It would decimate the job and tax base of the county, in particular the budgets of the Ferndale and Blaine school districts and Fire District 7, for which Cherry Point industries carry much of the tax load,” Huntley said in the release.

“While the Lummi people themselves and their treaty rights deserve great respect, this ploy to snatch nontribal land is just plain wrong,” the Alliance said in an Aug. 20 letter to the Corps.

The Alliance points to a single page that it claims is a “Lummi Nation planning document” from 2012. The page describes a strategy that includes defeating the coal terminal, acquiring Cherry Point and placing it in trust.

Tribes can ask the federal government to acquire properties and hold them in trust for tribal use, even land outside a tribe’s reservation.

Lummi Chairman Ballew reviewed the document and said it did not come from the tribe.

“What they presented definitely has not been produced by the Nation,” he said.

Owens didn’t answer directly when asked by a reporter if the Alliance believed Lummi Nation wanted to tear down existing industries at Cherry Point.

“The indicators are that they’re in opposition to growth at Cherry Point, and that their goal is to acquire Cherry Point property and have it placed in trust,” Owens said.

Cole said the documented evidence of the tribe’s intentions said “in an unambiguous way” that the tribe is intent on taking Cherry Point land.

“Some of it is pretty direct,” he said.

Documents used by the Alliance to support its claim include a 2012 resolution by the Lummi Indian Business Council to acquire Cherry Point “in order to prevent any further projects” and protect the cultural value of the area “in perpetuity.”

The only property specifically mentioned by the tribe for acquisition was the terminal site, and only after the coal terminal project was defeated. The documents say any acquisition of the terminal site would happen through negotiations with its owner, SSA Marine — not through a forceful snatching of the land, as the Alliance stated.

Ballew, who was not chairman when the 2012 ordinance was approved but sat on the council, acknowledged that acquiring a portion of Cherry Point was “a part of the operative part of the resolution.”

“But the more significant policy statement in that resolution is to protect the site,” Ballew said. “That doesn’t mean necessarily that the tribe acquires the land.”

“As far as I know the property isn’t for sale, and we haven’t taken that into consideration,” he said.

Ballew emphasized the importance of protecting the tribe’s cultural heritage at the coal terminal location, which he said was the site of an ancestral village. For now, he said, the tribe is focused on protecting its fishing rights through its request to the Corps to stop Gateway Pacific Terminal.

“They’re fabricating a false conspiracy,” Ballew said. “This is a distraction to our request to the Corps to protect our treaty rights.”

The tribe says the terminal pier and up to 487 ships per year traveling to and from the port would do irreparable harm to tribal fishing. At full capacity, Gateway Pacific Terminal would export 48 million metric tons of coal a year to overseas markets.

In its letter, the Alliance asked the Corps to “publicly disassociate” itself from the tribe’s takeover plans and reject its request to halt the terminal project.

Corps spokeswoman Patricia Graesser said the agency continues to consider the tribe’s request.

“The Army Corps of Engineers is focused on evaluating the actual proposal we have in hand for the Gateway Pacific Terminal and not on speculation regarding what may or may not happen with regard to future property ownership at Cherry Point,” she said.

Read more here:


The Case Against Coal Terminals: Lummi Cite Health, Environmental Factors

NOAAPacific International Terminals proposes building an export terminal for the export of coal and other commodities, on Cherry Point near the Lummi Nation reservation. The site is approximately midway between the BP oil refinery -- its docks are in the foreground -- and the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter. Opponents fear the further industrialization of this area will harm an ecosystem that is struggling to survive.
Pacific International Terminals proposes building an export terminal for the export of coal and other commodities, on Cherry Point near the Lummi Nation reservation. The site is approximately midway between the BP oil refinery — its docks are in the foreground — and the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter. Opponents fear the further industrialization of this area will harm an ecosystem that is struggling to survive.


Richard Walker, Indian Country Today


Coal trains are not the only threats to sacred sites and traditional hunting and fishing territory.First Nations in the U.S. and Canada that share the Salish Sea contend that increased ballast water discharges associated with the Gateway Pacific Terminal would introduce invasive species to the local marine environment; that increased rail and vessel activity would increase the risk of coal and oil spills, and that coal dust from the railway and terminal would affect the health of marine waters and nearby communities. But the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal is only one of the projects that would bring increased rail and shipping activity to the Salish Sea. Also proposed: Expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to Vancouver, B.C., and expansion of a coal, grain and container terminal at Delta, B.C.

RELATED: Lummi Call Coal Terminals an Absolute No-Go, Invoking Treaty Rights

The Salish Sea is currently transited by an estimated 10,000 cargo ships and tankers en route to and from oil refineries and shipping ports. The George Washington University and Virginia Commonwealth University studied the potential risk for a large oil spill from increase in shipping and “an ever-changing vessel traffic mix” of cargo ships and tankers that would result from the three projects. The 2014 vessel traffic risk assessment was commissioned by the Puget Sound Partnership, a state agency charged with coordinating efforts to improve the health of Puget Sound by 2020.

“Even though this area has not experienced major oil spills in the past 20 years or so, the presence of tankers in an ever changing vessel traffic mix places the area at risk for large oil spills,” the study states. “While a previous GW/VCU analysis of this area demonstrated significant risk reduction of oil transportation risk due to existing risk mitigation measures, potential for large oil spills continues to be a prominent public concern heightened by proposed maritime terminal developments.”

Concerns about coal dust and coal spills are bolstered by recent incidents in other communities.

“On more than one occasion, coal dust from the Brayton Point [power-generating] station has covered the nearby neighborhoods of Somerset, Massachusetts,” the Center for Media and Democracyreports. “On October 29, 2008, coal dust covered nearby Ripley Street, where residents reported having coal dust in their homes despite the windows being closed.”

Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Ashley Ahearn reports that in 2009, a representative of BNSF Railway Company testified before a federal review board that 645 pounds of dust escapes from each coal train car during a 400-mile trip.

“Since the 2009 testimony, coal companies have been required to apply what’s called surfactant or topper agent to the trains before they leave the mines,” Ahearn reported in March 2013. “BNSF researchhas shown that the surfactants reduce the coal dust by about 85 percent. That should bring the 645-pound figure down to about 100 pounds of coal dust escaping per car. There are usually about 125 cars per coal train.”

But coal in transit can harm health and the environment in other ways. In December 2012, a ship crashed into a conveyor belt at Westshore Terminals in Vancouver, British Columbia, spilling 30 metric tons of coal into the sea. In January 2014, a 152-car coal train derailed in Burnaby, British Columbia; three cars spilled their loads, one of them into a protected waterway.

Concerns about rail accidents in Washington state are shared by rail workers themselves. Members of the Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), have proposed new rules for hazardous material trains in response to the recent explosions of oil trains in Canada and North Dakota. House Bill 1809 and Senate Bill 5679 would require trains carrying hazardous materials to have one or two additional staff on board. Previously, Washington state mandated six-person crews. Today, some trains operate with only one or two people, according to SMART.

“Our workers know how to run these trains safely, but the railroad refuses to provide adequate staffing, exposing the public and rail workers to death and injury,” said SMART legislative director Herb Krohn, a conductor and switchman on Washington’s rails, in announcing the bills.

The measures have bipartisan support. HB 1809 is sponsored by 34 representatives and has been approved by the House Committee on Labor. Companion bill SB 5679, sponsored by 24 senators, is before the Senate Committee on Commerce & Labor.

“Our bill simply restores Washington state’s common-sense safety standards,” Krohn said. “We looked at what went wrong in each of the catastrophic explosions and the close calls, and it’s clear that one or two people simply can’t monitor and safely operate these dangerous cargos.  Adding even one more person to a train, particularly at the back of the train, will save lives.”



Lummi Nation rejects coal terminal applicant’s invitation to negotiate

Members of the Lummi Nation protested the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point on Sept. 21, 2012, by burning a large check stamped "Non-Negotiable." On Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew reiterated that stance, saying the tribe’s treaty rights were “not for sale” and the tribe would not negotiate with the company proposing the terminal.PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Members of the Lummi Nation protested the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point on Sept. 21, 2012, by burning a large check stamped “Non-Negotiable.” On Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew reiterated that stance, saying the tribe’s treaty rights were “not for sale” and the tribe would not negotiate with the company proposing the terminal.


By Ralph Schwartz, Bellingham Herald


Lummi Nation sent another clear message about a proposed coal terminal on Tuesday, Feb. 3: Under no terms will it accept Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point, an area near the Lummi Reservation with cultural and economic value to the tribe.

Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew  responded Tuesday to a Friday, Jan. 30,  request from terminal proponent SSA Marine to meet face to face and discuss how to “harmonize the facility with the environment.”

“I can assure you that we have carefully considered the impacts associated with this project and have concluded that these impacts simply cannot be avoided, minimized, or mitigated,” Ballew wrote in his response to Skip Sahlin, vice president of project development for Pacific International Terminals, an SSA Marine subsidiary created to develop Gateway Pacific Terminal.

“While we appreciate your desire to engage on these issues, we remain steadfastly opposed to this project and do not see the utility in pursuing any further discussion,” Ballew added.

Officials at SSA Marine had no comment.

Ballew sent  a letter Jan. 5 on behalf of the Lummi Indian Business Council to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, asking the agency to immediately reject a permit for the coal terminal because it would interfere with the tribe’s fishing grounds. The tribe has a right granted by an 1855 treaty to fish in its customary areas, which include Cherry Point and the shipping lanes that would see more traffic with the opening of Gateway Pacific Terminal.

Plans indicate the terminal could open as early as 2019 and would export up to 48 million metric tons of coal a year overseas.

Corps spokeswoman Patricia Graesser said the agency would give an initial response to the Lummis’ request on Wednesday, Feb. 4, but it wouldn’t be a decision on whether to reject the permit.

As determined in past court cases about disruptions to tribal fishing areas, the Corps needs to decide whether Gateway Pacific Terminal would have impacts that were more than negligible. Lummi Nation in its request to the Corps cites a vessel traffic study, which concluded that the traffic added by the terminal’s operation would increase by 73 percent the disruption of Lummi fishing by vessels.

In reaching out to the Lummis on Friday, Jan. 30, Sahlin mentioned the politics around the coal terminal decision, “and the pressure from many divergent interests to sway decision making.”

SSA Marine officials have accused terminal opponents of  getting the facts wrong. Sahlin said in his letter that more productive discussions would result if SSA Marine and Lummi Nation met face to face, as they have previously.

“We would welcome the opportunity to a return to such a fact-based interaction,” Sahlin wrote.

“Negotiation between Lummi and Pacific International Terminals is not an option,” Ballew said in a prepared statement. “Our treaty rights are non-negotiable and not for sale.”

In an interview, Ballew said the Corps in consultations with the tribe could reach a decision on the Lummi request in months rather than years. Graesser said in an email to The Bellingham Herald the Corps’ decision does not have a deadline.

The Corps will continue to draft an environmental impact statement for the terminal, a step that comes before permit approvals.

“I’m of the opinion that this government-to-government consultation (between the Corps and the tribe) puts the EIS process on the back burner,” Ballew said, “and their attention now should be on … making a decision based on the information that we’ve given them.”

Read more here:


How one Pacific Northwest tribe is carving out a resistance to coal — and winning

Daniel Thornton

By Amber Cortes and Grist staff, Grist, 15 Aug 2014

The Lummi Nation, a Native American tribe in the Pacific Northwest, has taken an uncompromising stand against the largest proposed coal export terminal in the country: the Gateway Pacific Terminal. If completed, it would export 48 million tons of coal mined from Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, and in the process threaten the Lummi’s ancestral fishing grounds and their economic survival. On Aug. 17 the Lummi people launch a totem pole journey — both a monument to protest and a traveling rally that will bring together imperiled locals, citizen groups, and other indigenous tribes for a unified front against Big Coal and Big Oil.

Grist fellow Amber Cortes visited the Lummis in the run-up to the pivotal protest to find out how they’ve been able to push back against the terminal. The result is a rich story about activism, alliances, and small victories that add up to a big resistance.

For the full story experience, click here.

M’ville mayor wants to bridge gap if coal trains come through town

By: Steve Powell, Arlington Times

MARYSVILLE — Mayor Jon Nehring has a love-hate relationship with the proposal for a new coal terminal in Cherry Point.

What he wouldn’t like would be increased train traffic in town. What he would like is federal and state money to build more bridges over the railroad to improve traffic flow with fewer delays waiting for trains.
Nehring said he’s been fighting the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal north of Bellingham for 3 1/2 years.
“They were trying to slide that through with no comments,” Nehring said.
But he and others met with then-governor Chris Gregoire, who slowed down the process.
“There’s so much opposition now” to it going to Ferndale. “It’s hard to predict” where it might end up, although he said Longview might be a good choice.
The City Council passed a resolution against the terminal in May of 2012.
A survey published July 24 by the Puget Sound Regional Council showed that a new coal terminal north of Marysville would bring up to 18 new trains per day through town. That would slow down commercial and commuter traffic, emergency response times, and ultimately have an economic impact of $1.65 million per year in Marysville alone, the report says.
“The beauty of this is it brings attention to our railroad problems outside of Snohomish County,” Nehring said of the publicity surrounding the survey.
Currently the only routes that bypass the train tracks to get in and out of the city are north and south of town. But if you live, work and/or need business services from 4th to 116th streets, “You have to wait the trains out,” the mayor said.
The mayor and council favor on- and off-ramps at Interstate 5 and 4th Street in a $50 million project.
Nehring said increased coal train traffic wouldn’t bring much help to Marysville. He said Ferndale would see all of the job growth.
The mayor also said the city will see an increase in train traffic no matter what. The report, prepared by a team of consulting firms, points out that freight rail traffic in Washington by 2035 is expected to grow 130 percent to 238 million tons of cargo, even without the new coal terminal. Rail freight already has increased 81 percent from 1991 to 2012, from 64 to 116 millions tons.
Marysville has 16 at-grade crossings on public streets along the north-south rail line. Long trains frequently create backups in town, often clogging the off-ramps from I-5. Wait times at crossings, which range from a total of 22 minutes to an hour and a half per day, could increase by as much as 147 percent per day within Marysville.
The trains are expected to be about 1.6 miles long. One report Marysville commissioned in 2011 noted that a single long train could simultaneously block all the railroad crossings between First Street and NE 88th Street.
Train noise and vibration, vehicle circulation and access impacts, and safety concerns, along with lower property values, are key concerns about increased railroad usage.
The mayor also said he’d like to city BNSF pay more for mitigation of increased train traffic. Federal law limits its cost to 5 percent, about what Wal Mart paid for traffic mitigation for its new store at Highway 529, the mayor noted.
Seattle-based SSA Marine’s Gateway Pacific Terminal project is in the planning stages and isn’t expected to be operating at full capacity until 2019.
City leaders in Marysville have studied their rail problems for years and recently hired a consultant to research alternatives to the city’s multiple at-grade crossings. The new PSRC report estimates that mitigation projects would cost $50 million to $200 million each. Two environmental impact statements are expected in mid-2015, at which time a public comment period will begin.
If the terminal does end up at Cherry Point, Nehring just wants government to mitigate the impacts.
“Just don’t clog our city down,” Nehring said.

Study: Coal Project Would Help One Puget Sound County But Others Would Pay

A council of governments in the central Puget Sound region commissioned a study by an independent consultant. It concluded that economic benefits of a proposed coal export terminal would be concentrated in Whatcom County, where it would be built. | credit: Katie Campbell
A council of governments in the central Puget Sound region commissioned a study by an independent consultant. It concluded that economic benefits of a proposed coal export terminal would be concentrated in Whatcom County, where it would be built. | credit: Katie Campbell


By: Ashley Ahearn, OPB


If it’s built, the coal-exporting Gateway Pacific Terminal will create more than two thousand jobs in Whatcom County during construction and several hundred permanent jobs once it’s operational.

The outlook for the the central Puget Sound region isn’t as optimistic, according to a new economic study from the Puget Sound Regional Council issued Thursday.

“It’s an economic model that creates very few jobs, certainly very, very few in the region … and has grave consequences for mobility here in Puget Sound,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in response to the study.

Low income communities in Kent and Seattle will be disproportionately affected by the coal train traffic, according to the study. Residential and commercial properties along coal train routes could decline as much as $282.3 million and $133 million, respectively.

“Communities along the rail lines will face a host of negative impacts, most of those are bad for business, with very little positive economic development from this particular activity and there’s no assurance the costs of upgrades won’t fall to us as well,” Constantine said.

With a capacity to export roughly 54 million metric tons of coal per year, the terminal would be the largest facility of its kind on the west coast. It would also have implications for the state’s rail system unlike any of the region’s other coal export proposals.

If BNSF Railway is unable to increase capacity on its main north-south line through Puget Sound, according to the study, the added 18 coal trains per day to and from Cherry Point could cause delays that hurt export-related jobs, stunt port growth and squeeze out current commodities and passenger rail.


Anticipated delays caused by Gateway Pacific Terminal train traffic
A new study commissioned by the Puget Sound Research Council anticipates the 18 additional coal trains per day to and from the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal would create delays at rail crossings.’


The Gateway Pacific project would increase delays at rail crossings between 38 and 85 minutes, according to the study. Those delays could be nearly three hours by 2035 without rail system updates. Rail traffic is expected to increase regardless of whether the terminal becomes operational, and the study did not account for the simultaneous increase in rail traffic of crude oil, which has also caused delays on the region’s rail lines.

Terry Finn, a retired BNSF Railway lobbyist who serves on one of the council’s advisory boards, said in a letter to the council that its study was the latest attempt by opponents to use scare tactics to stop the coal project.

The completed terminal could force an upgrade of existing rail lines, which would instead boost the region’s economy, according to the study.

A business coalition formed to advocate for coal exports called the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports issued a statement in response to the report.

It said that the report’s overall conclusions are not supported by the facts and that “greatly exaggerated costs projected in the study just don’t add up.”

Kathryn Stenger, a spokeswoman for the alliance, said in an email that other studies have concluded that the Gateway Pacific Terminal would economically benefit the entire region. The Washington State Farm Bureau, Association of Washington Business, and Washington State Labor Council have all endorsed Gateway Pacific, she said.

A separate economic study done for the Washington Farm Bureau in 2013 concluded coal terminals would result in lower costs and new markets for other Washington businesses.

BNSF Railway says it is investing approximately $235 million in Washington state this year to expand rail capacity and to replace and maintain network infrastructure.

There are 77 crossings in cities and towns in the Puget Sound area. Kent Mayor Suzette Cook said they present a safety issue as train traffic increases.

“At grade crossings are also a major problem with deaths. We’ve had several deaths occur on our tracks within the last year,” Cook said. “Cities are not in a position to shoulder the cost because other than avoidance of tragedy, the benefits are not there.”

Capitalizing on Fear

by Jay Taber on June 30, 2014, Intercontinental Cry


Tea Party Terrorists, published 29 April 2013 at IC Magazine, notes that in Whatcom County, Washington, “Wise Use ideology and anti-Indian rhetoric today — as the Tea Party and Wise Use hate entrepreneurs try to capitalize on fear over water rights and anxiety over economic salvation by the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal — again threaten to throw the region into turmoil.” Written shortly after the Anti-Indian Conference, promoted on KGMI radio by Tea Party leader Kris Halterman, and organized by anti-Indian activist Skip Richards, the concern about organized racism entering the electoral arena was a valid one.

Hate For Hire, published 27 April 2013 at IC Magazine, notes a special report by Charles Tanner that includes revelation of a scheme by anti-Indian organizers at the conference to finance a hate campaign against the Lummi Nation, using funding by the consortium behind Gateway Pacific Terminal. While the Anti-Indian Strategy by KGMI to drum up resentment against Lummi Nation was a vital vehicle for promoting the hate campaign, it was the insertion of monies from the Gateway Pacific Terminal consortium that would provide the fuel.

Anti-Indian Power, published 18 April 2013 at IC Magazine, notes that the Anti-Indian Movement infrastructure of national umbrella organizations like Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) — the conference sponsor — is effective when paired with local anti-Indian groups. In Whatcom County, those groups include Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR) and the Tea Party.

Coalgate: The Gateway Pacific Terminal Scandal, published 23 February 2014 at IC Magazine, notes that CERA celebrity Philip Brendale — speaking at the April 2013 conference — offered his non-profit to serve as a conduit for coal company monies, which in turn could be used for an attack on Lummi Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians that are opposing Gateway Pacific Terminal. As Brendale put it, this would enable them to, “take these tribes down.”

In August and September 2013, Tea Party leader and KGMI radio host Kris Halterman established the Save Whatcom and Whatcom First PACs with $149,000 from the Gateway Pacific Terminal consortium. Further funds from the consortium for the Tea Party slate followed in November, after being laundered through the Washington Republican Party. In October and November 2013, Craig Cole was appointed by Gateway Pacific Terminal developer SSA Marine to lead Team Whatcom in supporting the Tea Party slate.

As noted in Hubris Syndrome, published 26 February 2014 at Public Good Project, Cole may actually believe there is a media conspiracy out to get him. If that is so, it is hard to say how reckless he might become.

The Politics of Land and Bigotry, published 14 February 2014 at IC Magazine, notes that “the Wall Street/Tea Party convergence is counting on intimidation and thuggery to maintain power and privileges based on wealth and race.” Unless moral authorities once again step forward to protect activists and journalists who support Coast Salish nations in their quest to save the Salish Sea, threats like Craig Cole’s will be emulated by the Tea Party and Christian Right.

Washington coal terminal to get extensive review

A mile-long coal train waits south of Blaine, Friday morning, Oct. 11, 2013, to cross the border and unload in Canada.PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

A mile-long coal train waits south of Blaine, Friday morning, Oct. 11, 2013, to cross the border and unload in Canada.

By Phuong Lee, Associated Press

SEATTLE — State and local regulators said Wednesday they’ll consider a sweeping environmental review of the effects of a proposed terminal along the Columbia River in Washington that would export millions of tons of coal to Asia.

The review of the nearly $650 million Millennium Bulk Terminals project will consider impacts that extend well beyond the site, including global-warming effects from burning the exported coal in Asia and rail impacts as coal is shipped by train from the Rockies throughout the state.

The announcement represents a victory for project opponents, who said the decision ensures that concerns over coal dust, greenhouse gas emissions and rail traffic are addressed.

“It’s appropriate for such a massive project,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of the Columbia Riverkeeper. “It’s encouraging to see the agencies take to heart the deep public interest in protecting our communities.”

Some national and local business and labor groups criticized the broad scope, saying “cradle to grave” permitting isn’t justified and would have a chilling effect on trade and economic development.

Ken Miller, president and CEO of Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, said in a statement Wednesday that the company had hoped to be hiring workers now, two years after submitting permits, but was pleased the agencies are moving forward. A spokesman for Miller said he would not be available for an interview.

The National Association of Manufacturers, the attorney generals of North Dakota and Montana and others had argued for a narrower focus, saying there’s no precedent for such a far-reaching analysis.

“This decision sets an unnecessary precedent for manufacturers that could make it harder to obtain approvals for almost every product we export, from grains to airplanes,” Ross Eisenberg with the National Association of Manufacturers said in a statement Wednesday.

State Department of Ecology officials challenged the notion that this review sets a precedent for others, saying that projects are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Ecology’s Sally Toteff also noted that the state and county has just started the study and haven’t reached any conclusions.

“How much of a concern are impacts from greenhouse gas emissions or vessel or rail transport? We don’t know yet. How might this affect permitting decisions? We don’t know yet. That is the point of the study,” she said.

The project, planned by Ambre Energy Ltd. and Arch Coal Inc., would handle up to 44 million metric tons of coal from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming at a terminal near Longview.

It’s one of three coal-export docks proposed in the Northwest. The other projects are near Bellingham, Wash., and Boardman, Ore.

On Tuesday, Oregon regulators issued three key permits for another Ambre Energy project in Boardman but threw up a new hurdle. The state Department of Environmental Quality said it would require the project to seek a water-quality certification sought by opponents.

The proposal, known as the Morrow Pacific project, would bring up to 8.8 million tons of coal a year by train from Montana or Wyoming. The coal would be loaded onto enclosed barges at the terminal and then shipped down the Columbia River, where it would be loaded onto Asia-bound ships in Port Westward in Clatskanie.

That project still needs permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of State Lands.

An Army Corps spokesman said a permitting decision is expected this spring.

The coal-export issue has been a hotly debated topic with people and groups weighing in from across the region, including Montana ranchers, Northwest tribes and local city officials and labor groups.

Washington state regulators said they received more than 215,000 comments on the proposed Longview terminal. A bulk of them submitted as part of massive public comment campaigns organized by various groups.

Toteff said the environmental review will look at the amount greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the project on-site and when coal is burned in Asia, but it won’t look at impacts within any country that imports the coal.

The study could take years. It’s required before many local, state and federal permits can be approved. The county and state are conducting one review, while the Army Corps of Engineers is doing a separate one.

Last July, Ecology and Whatcom County officials also said they would consider a broad scope when reviewing the Gateway Pacific terminal coal-export dock proposed near Bellingham. The corps decided to take a narrower review of that Cherry Point project.

Read more here:

Coal Ships And Tribal Fishing Grounds

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Dozens upon dozens of crab pot buoys dot the waters around Jay Julius’ fishing boat as he points the bow towards Cherry Point. The spit of land juts into northern Puget Sound.

SSA Marine says Cherry Point is an excellent location to build a terminal because it’s surrounded by deep water with quick access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. If the company has its way, up to 48 million tons of coal could move through these waters each year aboard more than 450 large ships bound for the Asian market.

But if the Lummi and other tribes exercise their treaty fishing rights, there may not be any coal ships servicing American terminals in these waters.

Watch: Tribal members talk about coal exports and their fishing rights:


‘People of the Sea’

One out of every ten members of the Lummi Nation has a fishing license. Ancestors of the Lummi, or “People of the Sea” as they are known, and other Salish Sea peoples have fished the waters surrounding Cherry Point for more than 3,000 years. Today Lummi tribal officials are sounding the alarm about the impacts the Gateway Pacific Terminal could have on the tribe’s halibut, shrimp, shellfish and salmon fishery, which is worth a combined copy5 million annually.

“You have numerous fishermen up here right now,” says Julius, a member of the Lummi tribal council. He’s gesturing at the nearby crab pots as his boat idles a little more than 50 yards from the proposed site of the Gateway Pacific Terminal, one of three coal export facilities under consideration in Oregon and Washington. “What does that mean to our treaty right to fish? This would be no more.”

Tribal treaty fishing rights could play a major role in the review process for the Gateway Pacific Terminal. According to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, nine tribes’ treaty fishing grounds would be impacted by the Gateway Pacific Terminal and the vessel traffic it would draw.

‘Usual and Accustomed’ Fishing Areas

In the mid-1800s tribes in this region signed treaties with the federal government, ceding millions of acres of their land. Native American populations plummeted and the survivors were relegated to reservations. But the tribal leaders of the time did a very smart thing, says Tim Brewer, a lawyer with the Tulalip tribe in northwestern Washington.

“They insisted on reserving the right to continue to fish in their usual and accustomed fishing areas. It is an extremely important part of the treaty,” Brewer says.

 Lummi tribal fishermen at the end of a day on the water. (Ashley Ahearn)
Lummi tribal fishermen at the end of a day on the water. (Ashley Ahearn)

Those treaty rights weren’t enforced in Washington until a landmark court decision in 1974 known as the Boldt Decision. It forced the state to follow up on the treaty promise of fishing rights that were made to the tribes more than a century before.

Brewer says the phrase: “usual and accustomed”—language that appears in the treaties signed by the Lummi and many other Northwest tribes—has implications for development projects, like coal terminals.

“If a project is going to impair access to a fishing ground and that impairment is significant that project can not move forward without violating the treaty right,” he says.

Since the mid-‘70s, tribes have begun to flex those treaty muscles.

In 1992 the Lummi stopped a net pen fish farm that was proposed for the waters off of Lummi Island by a company called Northwest Sea Farms.

The Lummi demonstrated that constructing the floating net pens would block tribal access to their usual and accustomed fishing grounds. “In that case the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers denied that permit on that basis,” Brewer says. “There was no agreement that was able to be worked out there.”

But, in other situations, agreements have been made.

Dwight Jones, general manager of Elliott Bay Marina. (Ashley Ahearn)
Dwight Jones, general manager of Elliott Bay Marina. (Ashley Ahearn)

Though it’s a ways away, the iconic Seattle Space Needle peeks out amongst the masts of hundreds of sailboats neatly tucked into their berths at the Elliott Bay Marina, just north of downtown. It’s the largest privately-owned marina on the West Coast. And it was built within the usual and accustomed fishing area of the Muckleshoot tribe, back in 1991.

It took 10 years of environmental review. The Muckleshoot fought the project.

“It was contentious, I guess would be the right word,” says Dwight Jones, the general manager of Elliott Bay Marina. The Muckleshoot “could have stopped the marina from being built.”

But instead the tribe came to an agreement with the backers of the Elliott Bay Marina.

Muckleshoot tribal members contacted for comment on this story did not respond.

Jones says the owners of Elliott Bay Marina paid the Muckleshoot more than copy million up front and for the next 100 years they will give the tribe 8 percent of their gross annual revenue.

“Anyone who’s in business can tell you that 8 percent of your gross revenues is a huge number,” he says. “It really affects your viability as a business.”

When asked if he had any advice for companies that want to build coal terminals in the Northwest, Jones laughed.

“I’d say good luck. There will be a lot of costs and chances are the tribes will probably negotiate a settlement that works well for them and it will not be cheap,” he responded.

Deal or No Deal?

SSA Marine and Pacific International Terminals—the companies that want to build the terminal at Cherry Point—have lawyers and staff members working to make a deal with the Lummi to get the terminal built. The companies declined repeated requests to be interviewed on the subject.

“I think they’re quite disgusting,” says Lummi council member Julius when asked how he feels about the terminal backers’ efforts to make inroads with the Lummi. “It’s nothing new, the way they’re trying to infiltrate our nation, contaminate it, use people.”

This past summer Julius and the Lummi tribal council sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers. The federal agency will have final say over the key permits for the coal terminal.

In the letter the Lummi assert their “unconditional and unequivocal” opposition to the project, and lay out the reasoning behind their position, which centers around threats to treaty fishing rights and the tribe’s cultural and spiritual heritage at Cherry Point.

But there’s a line at the end of the letter, which legal experts and the Army Corps of Engineers say leaves the door open for continuing negotiation on the Gateway Pacific Terminal. It reads:

“These comments in no way waive any future opportunity to participate in government-to-government consultation regarding the proposed projects.”

Diana Bob, the Lummi tribal attorney who was involved in drafting the letter, declined to be interviewed for this series.

This is the second of a two-part series originally published at ICTMN posted Part I last week.

RELATED: Documents Reveal Coal Exporter Disturbed Native Archaeological Site



Ecology will study impact of coal trains when considering Gateway Pacific Terminal

Whatcom County and its regulatory state and federal partners have announced they will conduct a sweeping review of Gateway Pacific Terminal’s environmental impacts — an apparent victory for the coal terminal’s opponents.


July 31, 2013

In a joint press release issued Wednesday, July 31, the three levels of government announced that they “will closely study their direct effects at the site and evaluate a broad range of indirect and cumulative impacts likely to occur within and beyond Washington.”

Whatcom County, the Washington Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are producing a joint environmental impact statement for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal and BNSF Railway Custer Spur track expansion.

A coal train heads through downtown Bellingham alongside Roeder Avenue Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
A coal train heads through downtown Bellingham alongside Roeder Avenue Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.

The Gateway Pacific Terminal – proposed by SSA Marine subsidiary Pacific International Terminals – could handle as much as 48 million tons of Asia-bound U.S. coal per year. Combined with smaller quantities of other bulk cargoes, the terminal could generate 18 train trips per day through Bellingham and other cities along the rail line. That includes northbound loaded trains and returning empty trains.

According to the press release, Whatcom County and the Department of Ecology have determined that the State Environmental Policy Act require examination of impacts on “earth, air, water, plants and animals, energy and natural resources, environmental health, land and shoreline use, transportation, and public services and utilities.”

Among other things, that means “a detailed assessment of rail transportation impacts in Whatcom County near the project site, specifically including Bellingham and Ferndale.”

The study also will include “an assessment of how the project would affect human health, including impacts from related rail and vessel transportation in Whatcom County.”

The state and county also have agreed to take it one step farther, to require “an evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions from terminal operations, and rail and vessel traffic.”

Gateway Pacific supporters had argued for a narrower focus, saying it was unfair to consider project impacts far from the site. Some business leaders said such broad environmental review requirements could have a chilling effect on other major industrial development projects in the state.

This story will be updated with more details and reaction throughout the day.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or Read his Politics blog at or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.