More oil spills ahead for Puget Sound?

Ingrid TaylarThe Puget Sound — prettier without an oily sheen.

Ingrid TaylarThe Puget Sound — prettier without an oily sheen.

By John Upton, Grist
The Puget Sound — prettier without an oily sheen.

It looks like Puget Sound – which isn’t actually a noise but a sprawling and ecologically rich estuary in Washington state – is about to get a whole lot oilier.

An ugly trifecta of fossil fuel export projects proposed around the sound would substantially boost shipping traffic, and a new report funded by the EPA and produced by academic scientists for a state agency warns that can be expected to bring oil spills with it.

If the Gateway Pacific coal export terminal is built at Cherry Point, Wash., and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline into Vancouver is expanded, and Vancouver’s Deltaport is expanded, the report warns that the frequency of ship groundings and collisions could rise by 18 percent. Regionally, the risks of a large oil spill could rise by about two-thirds, the researchers found. Here’s more from the AP:

“The problem area is the Haro Strait area and the approach to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where spill volumes could more than triple due to the potential new mix and volume of traffic,” said Todd Hass with the Puget Sound Partnership, the agency is charged with protecting the waterway.

Under a proposal by Kinder Morgan Canada, up to 34 tankers a month would be loaded with oil at a Vancouver-area terminal, up from about five tankers a month now. Those tankers would generally travel through the Haro Strait west of San Juan Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The report concludes that the risks could be reduced through improved vessel traffic management, more vessel inspections, reduced speed limits for ships, and more tug escorts. And the report points out that those measures could help reduce oil spill dangers regardless of whether the dangerous fossil fuel projects move forward.

Yakama Nation Protests Coal Export Terminal

Yakama Nation fishers and tribal leaders hopped on boats to the fishing site. As a protest, they dropped a net right next to the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export facility. | credit: Courtney Flatt

Yakama Nation fishers and tribal leaders hopped on boats to the fishing site. As a protest, they dropped a net right next to the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export facility. | credit: Courtney Flatt

 

By Courtney Flatt, NPR

BOARDMAN, Ore. — Yakama Nation tribal members took to the Columbia River Tuesday to protest a proposed coal export facility in eastern Oregon. The tribe says the export facility would cut fishers off from treaty-protected fishing sites along the river.

More than 70 people held signs and waved flags on the banks of the Columbia River, just downstream from the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export terminal.

Fishers and tribal leaders rode boats to the treaty fishing site, dropping a fishing net right next to the proposed coal export facility to assert their treaty fishing rights.

Yakama Nation Chairman JoDe Goudy has fished the Columbia River since he was 6 years old. He said the proposed coal export terminal would threaten the river, fish, and the tribes’ treaty-protected fishing rights.

“We believe that an attack on these things is an attack on our very essence and our way of life,” Goudy said.

Ambre Energy, the company backing this export terminal, has said the project will not interfere with treaty fishing rights.

Goudy said the tribe isn’t concerned about whether any company chooses to acknowledge treaty fishing rights.

“[Our fishing rights] exist, regardless of what they wish to say on black and white, or on anything that they can document. We live it. We see it. We know it. We practice it on an annual basis. We practice it when the fish come. We go where the fish are,” Goudy said.

Yakama Nation fishers and tribal leaders hopped on boats to the fishing site. As a protest, they dropped a net right next to the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export facility. | credit: Courtney Flatt

Yakama Nation fishers and tribal leaders hopped on boats to the fishing site. As a protest, they dropped a net right next to the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export facility. | credit: Courtney Flatt

 

Members from the Lummi Nation also traveled to the protest. The tribe is fighting another proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, Washington.

Just before Lummi Nation council member Jay Julius hopped on a fishing boat, he said it’s tribal members’ responsibility to protect future generations and their fishing rights.

“The coal company said they don’t fish here anymore, and we’re going to prove them wrong. The treaty doesn’t say, ‘if they fish here sometimes.’ It’s pretty clear. It says all usual and accustomed areas,” Julius said.

Julius said a larger proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point would directly impact fishing areas there.

The Morrow Pacific Project would transport about 9 million tons of coal per year from the Powder River Basin to Boardman in eastern Oregon. Coal would then be barged down the Columbia River to Clatskanie, Oregon. From there, it would then be transported to Asia.

Being Frank: Keep Big Oil Out of Grays Harbor

Billy Frank

Billy Frank

By Billy Frank, Jr., Chairman, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

OLYMPIA – Our environment, health, safety and communities are at risk from decisions being made now to transport and export trainloads of coal and oil through western Washington.

If coal export terminals proposed for Cherry Point near Bellingham, and Longview on the Columbia River are approved, hundreds of trains and barges would run from Montana and Wyoming every day, spreading coal dust along the way. That same coal will continue to pollute our world when it is burned in China and other countries thousands of miles away.

Now that threat is joined by proposals to use mile-long crude oil trains to feed massive new oil terminals in Grays Harbor.  Safety is a huge concern. Since 2008 nearly a dozen oil trains have been derailed in the U.S.  In December, a fire burned for over 24 hours after a 106-car train carrying crude oil collided with a grain train in North Dakota. In July, an oil train accident killed 47 people and leaked an estimated 1.5 million gallons of oil in Quebec, Canada.

It’s clear that crude oil can be explosive and the tankers used to transport it by rail are simply unsafe. These oil trains are an accident waiting to happen to any town along the route from the oil fields of the Midwest to the shores of western Washington.

Plans for shipping crude oil from Grays Harbor also include dredging the Chehalis River estuary, which will damage habitat needed by fish, shellfish and birds.  Large numbers of huge tanker ships moving in and out of the harbor would interfere with Indian and non-Indian fisheries and other vessel traffic.

The few jobs that the transport and export of coal and oil offer would come at the cost of catastrophic damage to our environment for years. We would have to live with that damage for many years. Everyone knows that oil and water don’t mix, and neither do oil and fish, oil and wildlife, or oil and just about everything else. It’s not a matter of whetherspills will happen, it’s a matter of when.

Thankfully, the Quinault Indian Nation is taking a stand. “The history of oil spills provides ample, devastating evidence that there are no reasonable conditions under which these proposed terminal projects should proceed,” says my friend, Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation. “We oppose oil in Grays Harbor.  This is a fight we can’t afford to lose.  We’re in it to win. Our fishing, hunting and gathering rights are being jeopardized by the immediate and future impacts of these proposed developments.”

Right now public hearings are being held and Environmental Impact Statements are being developed for these oil export schemes. You can send comments to Maia Bellon, Director of the Department of Ecology, 300 Desmond Drive, Lacey, WA 98503-1274.

I urge you to join the Quinault Indian Nation and the many others who are battling Big Oil on this issue. Email ProtectOurFuture@quinault.org or more information.

“We have a responsibility to protect the land and water for the generations to come. Together, we can build a sustainable economy without sacrificing our environment,” says Sharp.

She’s right.

Gov. Jay Inslee hires coal lobbyist to direct his policy office

Washington State Governor-elect Jay Inslee hugs outreach director Unjin Lee, the first hire made by his campaign, during a celebration on Friday, November 9, 2012 at the Inslee campaign headquarters in Seattle. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo)

Washington State Governor-elect Jay Inslee hugs outreach director Unjin Lee, the first hire made by his campaign, during a celebration on Friday, November 9, 2012 at the Inslee campaign headquarters in Seattle. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo)

 

By Joel Connelly, Seattle PI

Gov. Jay Inslee has hired a coal lobbyist to direct his policy office, an eyebrow-raising selection for a governor who has insisted on sweeping scrutiny of coal export terminals proposed at Cherry Point, north of Bellingham, and along the Columbia River at Longview.

The new appointee is Matt Steuerwalt, who has been through the revolving door in recent years. He was a top energy/climate adviser to then-Gov. Chris Gregoire, then went to work for the Seattle-based Strategies 360 group.

At Strategies 360, he represented TransAlta, the Canadian-based owner of the Centralia Coal plant and the state’s only coal plant and its largest greenhouse gas emitter.

The state, under Gregoire, and TransAlta reached a landmark agreement for a phased, decade-long phaseout of coal at the power plant. Steuerwalt also lobbied for a coal port proposal.

“In recent years, Steuerwalt has acted as a lead lobbyist for coal-fired power in Washington, as well as for a now-defunct coal port proposal,” said Eric de Place, research director with the Sightline Institute.

De Place has delighted in giving footprints to Northwest public relations firms which have touted their “green” credentials and commitment to renewable energy, while lobbying on behalf of Big Coal, the railroad industry and “astroturf” front groups.

“Given that Steuerwalt has recently been a paid lobbyist in support of coal in Washington, the move raises questions about whether he will use his influence in the Inslee administration to advance an agenda more favorable to the coal industry,” said de Place.

He won’t, said Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith.

“The choice of a policy director will have no impact on the state’s role in reviewing coal export projects,” she added. ”The governor has a longstanding and well-known position on coal pollution and climate change, and has directed the Department of Ecology to conduct a rigorous review of current coal projects to the full extent allowed under state law.”

Inslee has touted his green credentials and been rewarded for same.

He coauthored a book, “Apollo’s Fire,” which calls for a U.S. commitment to develop new energy technologies that would rival, in intensity, the drive in the 1960′s to put Americans on the Moon. He will preach to the choir next month as keynote speaker at Climate Solutions’ annual breakfast.

In turn, two years ago, the national League of Conservation Voters made Inslee the first gubernatorial candidate it had endorsed in 42 years. The conservation community, state and national, spent an estimated $750,000 to get him elected.

Strategies 360 has close ties to Democrats, but not always of the same mindset as Inslee.

It has hosted fundraisers for Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who supports coal development and export from the Big Sky State. It has represented Puget Sound Energy, which gets electricity from a Montana coal plant, in fighting back movements to create a public utility district in Island and Skagit counties.

Steuerwalt gave $250 to support then-U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee in 2009, and $950 to Inslee in 2011-12 as he transitioned and quit Congress to run for governor.

Steuerwalt begins his new job on May 1.

Coal-Hungry World Brings Tough Choices For Native Americans

Jewell Praying Wolf James addresses a crowd gathered in September in Olympia, Wash., to protest coal exports. (Lynne Peeples)

Jewell Praying Wolf James addresses a crowd gathered in September in Olympia, Wash., to protest coal exports. (Lynne Peeples)

By Lynne Peeples, Huffington Post, Updated Feb 7, 2014

Inside a ceremonial longhouse in northern Oregon last September, the sun’s rays spilling between the high-peaked beams, Davis Yellowash Washines was seated in full ceremonial dress — yellow headband, red sash, beaded shoes. A rawhide drum rested in his hand, and to his left sat four teenage boys, each with his own drum and mallet. One wore a black Chevrolet T-shirt. They thumped their instruments and called out native songs as an organized smattering of young children bounced rhythmically counter-clockwise around the dirt floor. Two dozen fellow members of the tribal community, seated in folded metal chairs, looked on.

“This longhouse is used for lots of occasions,” Washines said between songs. “But this one is significant.”

This ceremony aimed to ward off coal.

Celilo Indian Village, Ore., separated from the Columbia River by only a highway and some railroad tracks, is one of many tribal communities that sit in the path of what could soon become America’s coal-export superhighway. If government agencies grant approval to three export terminals proposed for Oregon and Washington, up to 100 million metric tons of coal per year could soon be shuttled in open rail cars from mines in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana, along the shores of the Columbia River and the Puget Sound, and through ranches and reservations like this one. The coal would then be loaded onto ships destined for Asia’s proliferating fleet of coal-fired power plants.

Many activists currently fighting the plan see the impacts of burning coal on the global climate as their primary motivation. But for the Yakama, Lummi and other tribes, as well as communities in the path of these shipments, it’s the local effects that worry them most. There are the potential traffic delays and disturbances to cultural sites. Then there’s the very real prospect of toxic coal dust wafting off the passing trains, fouling the air, poisoning local waterways and even contaminating key food resources — such as the salmon on which many local tribes, including those living in the tiny Celilo Indian Village, depend.

While the U.S. has seen a steady decline in coal use in recent years thanks to tighter federal regulations and the expanded viability of natural gas and renewable energy, the rise of burgeoning, coal-hungry economies in China, India and other fast-developing nations means the Celilo tribes — like many communities across the Pacific Northwest — now find themselves wedged squarely between a domestic abundance of the combustible rock and its most promising international market.

The potential expansion of coal exports elicits differing opinions among tribes and communities here. What may be an environmental or public health imposition for one is seen as a desperately needed opportunity for another. The coal industry, for example, argues that exports could inject welcome economic activity into struggling Northwest towns and reservations. By itself, the Gateway Pacific Terminal proposed at Cherry Point on the Puget Sound would add approximately 1,250 permanent jobs, including induced jobs such as restaurant and healthcare workers, as well as 4,400 temporary construction jobs, according to an analysis by an industry consultant. Annual local and state tax revenues would amount to about $11 million.

The dispute over the coal trains is playing out in television advertisements, on the streets and inside boardrooms, town halls and courthouses from Washington, D.C., to Seattle. A series of hearings and protests over the last few months have attracted thousands of people — some donning makeshift respirators, others wearing “Beyond Coal” T-shirts, and some even rappelling from a bridge over the Columbia River as a symbolic blockade to the shipments. Still, nowhere are the tensions so acute as on the hardscrabble reservations that either sit atop valuable coal — an estimated 30 percent of U.S. coal reserves west of the Mississippi are located on native lands — or lie in the path of the trains that would haul it to port.

Just outside the walls of the longhouse where Washines and his fellow drummers were singing out in opposition to the coal shipments, a 22-foot totem pole lay on the bed of a white truck. The carving, which depicted five salmon, two kneeling men and a hungry child, was touring towns, churches and reservations across the Pacific Northwest as part of an effort to consolidate tribal opposition to the proposed coal shipments. (The totem’s last stop, in late September, would be across the border in the Tsleil-Waututh Nation of British Columbia, where it now stands erected as a display of solidarity with that tribe’s parallel struggle over a tar sands oil pipeline.)

“Mother Earth doesn’t have a voice,” said Karen Jim Whitford, a tribal elder, as she stepped shoeless into the center of the longhouse floor. A couple of her tears disappeared into the dirt. “So we must speak for her.”

“I vote we stand up,” exclaimed another elder, Lorintha Umtuch, referring to the totem’s symbolic call for Native Americans to get off their knees and “Warrior Up!” for future generations. “Indian people need to stop this, or else corporations will trample us.”

Not all tribes stand on the same side of the coal-export battle line. CJ Stewart, a senator of the Crow Nation, said in a phone interview in October that his tribe desperately needs to develop its coal reserves to improve its economic fortunes and lift its people out of poverty. In November, the Crow Nation signed a joint resolution with the Navajo Nation in support of each other’s coal development. “We rely on coal just as they rely on salmon,” Stewart said, referring to the Yakama and other tribes represented in Celilo. “All tribes share one common enemy, and that enemy is poverty.”

Many tribes along the rail corridor, however, feel it’s not just livelihoods at stake — it’s lives. Jewell Praying Wolf James, the carver of the well-traveled totem and member of the Lummi Nation, expressed sympathy with the coal-dependent tribes during a later stop on the totem’s journey in Olympia, Wash. “We feel bad for the Crow Nation, the Navajo, the Hopi. That’s all they got,” he said. “But we want clean air, clean water. We want salmon restored and our children healthy.”

Davis Yellowash Washines presses his hand against one of the brightly painted salmon encircling the bottom of the totem. “The salmon gave its life for you, just like the tree gave its life for this purpose,” he said. (Paul Anderson)

Dig into Native American history and you will strike coal. As far back as the 1300s, Hopi Indians in what is now the U.S. Southwest used the fossil fuel for cooking, heating and baking clay pottery. In the 1800s, Native Americans made up much of the early mining workforce that would help ignite coal’s long reign as the go-to fuel source for the country’s necessities and luxuries — from transporting goods and running factories to heating homes and powering Playstations.

But King Coal’s grip is slipping. The rise of hydro-fracturing technology in recent years has unleashed torrents of natural gas, a cheaper and cleaner alternative, and left coal-rich states and undiversified coal companies with a serious revenue problem. Many have responded by looking to Asia, where mining local coal, in addition to building wind farms and solar panels, has not created nearly enough energy for the rapidly growing economies there.

Asia’s ready market and America’s still plentiful coal could make a convenient marriage. Proving particularly attractive to Asian buyers is Powder River Basin coal, which is cheap to extract and relatively low in polluting sulfur. Yet plenty of obstacles remain in the U.S. and abroad before coal interests can successfully drive their product to northwestern ports for export. There are the vocal environmental advocates, the newly elected local leaders who’ve made clear their opposition to the plans, the big-money investors who’ve withdrawn support for port builders and, of course, the tribes.

In a July letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency tasked with evaluating the two Washington State coal port projects, the Lummi Nation wrote of its “unconditional and unequivocal opposition” to the terminal planned for Cherry Point, near its reservation. The tribe cited among other concerns “significant and unavoidable impacts and damage” to treaty rights reserved in the 19th century to fish at its “usual and accustomed” areas.

Patricia Graesser, a spokeswoman with the Corps, acknowledged the Lummi letter and said her agency was in government-to-government discussions with the tribe. “We have a responsibility to uphold the nation’s treaty with Native American tribes,” she said.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, is responding to a major air pollution crisis sparked largely by rapid development centered on coal-fired power. In December, Shanghai’s air quality fell to a record low and the country’s smog could be seen from space. But even with leaders in China vowing to slow down the growth of coal use, experts predict global coal consumption will jump up another 25 percent by the end of the decade.

Decisions on the Northwest export terminals could significantly influence the future of coal in Asia. “Opening up this main line of cheap American coal is a pretty important signal if you are a Chinese official thinking about how much to invest in what kind of energy infrastructure,” said KC Golden, senior policy adviser for the non-profit Climate Solutions, which has advocated against the proposed ports.

The effects would span the globe. According to estimates by the Sightline Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in Seattle, Pacific Northwest coal exports could create greater national and worldwide environmental impacts, including on climate change, than a Canadian company’s controversial proposal to ferry Albertan tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast via the Keystone XL pipeline.

As Jewell Praying Wolf James put it: “Once the coal gets to China, it’s pollution for all of us.”

For more than 11,000 years, Celilo Falls served as the center of trade and commerce for Native Americans of the West. The upwards of 15 million salmon that passed through the mile-long span of rocky chutes in the Columbia River every year functioned as a sort of currency. “Some tribal people call it pre-contact Wall Street,” said Charles Hudson, intergovernmental affairs director with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in Portland, Ore.

Lewis and Clark called it “the great mart.”

But within a few short hours on March 10, 1957, Celilo’s era of plenty came to an abrupt end. Rising floodwaters from a newly completed hydroelectric dam engulfed the rapids. Salmon runs soon shrank to a small fraction of their former numbers.

Davis Yellowash Washines, chief of enforcement for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, was only 5 years old when the Dalles Dam opened and drowned Celilo Falls. “I can still feel its mist. I can still hear its thunder,” he said over dinner the night before the September longhouse ceremony.

Warren Spencer, a Yakama elder, was serving in the military in Germany that year, but he recalled the time-lapse photos of the inundation he received by mail from his mother back home in Celilo Falls. “I sat there on my bunk and cried,” he said.

Now, Spencer is deeply concerned about how this new energy project might affect the futures of his four children, 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. The coal push, he said, represents the continued encroachment of the federal government and “white man’s money” on Native American tribes. “It’s turning brother against brother,” he said.

Members of the Lummi Nation bask in the natural light of the Celilo longhouse before the totem pole ceremony in September. (Paul Anderson)

Many of the current and former residents of Celilo belong to the Yakama Nation. Like the Lummi, the tribe put its opposition to the exports on paper. In a November letter to the Army Corps of Engineers and a state official, Yakama chairman Harry Smiskin referenced a “long history of Treaty violations from energy development in the region that permanently and irreparably have harmed my People.” The new energy projects, he said, would add “direct adverse impacts” to the tribe’s treaty rights to fish, hunt and gather food, and do more damage to the already fragile environment, culture and health of his nation.

Dr. Frank James, of the University of Washington School of Public Health, underscored the “disproportionate impacts” of the coal projects facing native people of the Northwest. Much of this vulnerability results, he said, from their traditional dependence on the salmon of the region’s rivers and coastal waters — fish that are now widely listed as threatened or endangered under federal law and could be further spoiled by air and water pollution from mining and transporting the coal, and its burning overseas.

The tribes’ reliance on salmon goes beyond a staple food and a means to make a living. “It is their total way of life,” said James. “Salmon is part of their religion, their culture, their language. To further impact that is an assault on their very existence.”

In a back corner of the Celilo longhouse kitchen, Gloria Jim sat in a folding chair, on a brief break from cooking the ceremony’s Columbia River salmon lunch with other Celilo women. She lamented that they hadn’t had enough salmon to serve for breakfast, too.

“That’s how it used to be here,” said Jim, who wore a white shirt printed with a picture of her deceased son, pink stretch pants and running shoes. She recalled the Forest Gump-like menu of her childhood: Salmon, fried or dried, stuffed or baked, or simply salted.

“My mom didn’t believe in food stamps. We lived on what we caught,” she said. “Now we have no choice. We have to go to the grocery store.”

Her people have been warned, she added, that the salmon they do catch and eat may be dangerously polluted. An estimated 17 percent of pregnant Native American women already have mercury levels high enough to disrupt the healthy development of their babies — much higher than other racial groups.

Deposits of the neurotoxic heavy metal, along with arsenic and other contaminants from coal-fired power plants, can accumulate up the food chain and into salmon. Research further suggests that around 25 percent of the mercury in Northwest American waterways and up to 10 percent of the ozone in the region’s skies is carried by wind currents across the Pacific — from power plants in Asia.

Coal exports could pollute the region in other ways. Perhaps most talked about are the risks of heavy metal-laden coal dust and diesel exhaust blown and belched from trains, terminals and ocean-going tankers. Derailments, such as the one that sent seven cars spilling coal into a British Columbia creek last week, raise further fears, as does the possibility of bunker fuel spills once tankers set out to sea through narrow, rough passages.

In November, Dan Jaffe, an environmental scientist at the University of Washington-Bothell, released preliminary results of a study on the environmental insults of existing coal train traffic. His team monitored 450 passing trains — some carrying coal, some not — from two representative sites. They sampled for about 10 days at a spot on the Columbia River Gorge and for about a month near a Seattle home that butts up against railroad tracks currently used by trains en route to Canadian coal ports. Jaffe said he confirmed elevated levels of diesel exhaust there “on par with the dirtiest air in the Seattle area,” as well as a slight increase in large airborne particles — likely coal dust, he said — when coal trains passed by.

The three proposed terminals would dramatically increase rail traffic, bringing some 35 additional mile-plus-long trains in and out of the region every day. Currently, fewer than 10 coal trains come and go.

Jaffe’s crowdfunded research has yet to be peer-reviewed, a point emphasized by Courtney Wallace, a spokeswoman with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, whose lines would host much of the westbound coal. Wallace added that BNSF has spent more than $1 billion on rail cars and locomotives that “achieve the highest EPA standards available,” and result in 69 percent fewer diesel emissions compared to older locomotives.

BNSF has testified that up to 645 pounds of coal dust can escape from each rail car during a 400-mile journey, but Wallace also pointed to findings by the railway that this fugitive dust diminishes as railcars travel farther from the Powder River Basin and toward export terminals.

Several environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, filed a lawsuit in July against BNSF over coal contamination of U.S. waterways. Wallace called the action a “publicity stunt,” but a U.S. District judge denied a motion to dismiss the case this month.

Blown coal dust and other hazards could be particularly dire around Celilo and the rest of the Columbia River Gorge, where train tracks are sometimes just feet from tribal residences, said Hudson, of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “The winds are reliable and strong — 40, 50, 70 miles per hour,” he said. “There’s a reason it’s the wind-surfing capital of the world.”

Located in rural Montana, the Crow Nation can’t boast a lucrative seafood or wind-surfing tourism market. What they do have is a whole lot of coal. Approximately 9 billion tons of the fossil fuel lie beneath their land, comprising one of the largest coal reserves in the United States.

“Coal is the way we’ve been taking care of our people,” said CJ Stewart, the Crow senator. Yet his people continue to struggle with poverty and an unemployment rate he suggested is upwards of 50 percent. “And the U.S. cries over its 8 percent,” he said.

In June, the U.S. government approved a deal between the Crow and Cloud Peak Energy, a Wyoming company that’s moving to increase its coal exports to Asian markets. The tribe now has the green light to lease its rights to an estimated 1.4 billion tons of coal, more than the U.S. consumes annually. The deal could be worth at least $10 million for the Crow over the first five years. Cloud Peak has also pledged to give preference in hiring, training and promotion to qualified Native Americans, as well as annual scholarships to local native students. A spokesman for Cloud Peak, Rick Curtsinger, said the company is continuing to work through an agreement with the tribe.

Crow Nation chairman Darrin Old Coyote testified in July before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources that the deal is largely dependent on the fate of coal exports through the Northwest. Such significant coal development, he said, has “unlimited potential to improve the ongoing substandard socioeconomic conditions of the Crow people and the surrounding communities in southeastern Montana.”

“Given our vast mineral resources, the Crow Nation can, and should, be self-sufficient,” he said.

Also in the heart of the Powder River Basin, and also saddled with high unemployment, are the Northern Cheyenne. The tribe has a long history of resisting coal development due to perceived environmental health risks. But like the Crow, the Northern Cheyenne are also recognizing an increasingly tough economic reality.

“We’ve got a lot of coal underneath our land,” said Tom Mexican Cheyenne, director of the Northern Cheyenne’s community health department, who made clear that he did not speak for the tribe. “There’s a split — some on the tribal council are for coal mining and some are against it.”

The Northern Cheyenne’s decision on whether or not to harvest their coal may, too, come down to pending verdicts on the Pacific Northwest ports. No train tracks currently run to their reservation’s coal reserves, though rail lines could be expanded with enough demand.

Mexican Cheyenne believes the council is leaning towards development of the coal. “I see a real desperation to help the economy any way they can,” he said.

Wind energy has also been on the table here for years. But impoverished tribes such as the Northern Cheyenne and the Crow often lack the funds necessary for capital investments and opportunities for outside help, such as tax credits.

Debra Lekanoff, a leader with the Swinomish Tribe of Washington, said the tribes need federal support to find alternative ways to benefit from their resources. “We urge the federal government to help our brothers and sisters with funding, capacity-building and sound science to open up the doors to new opportunities,” she said.

She suggested that the “elephant in the room” in the coal development debate is the challenge of “walking in two worlds” and soundly balancing “economic sustainability and environmental protection.”

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which includes the Yakama and Lummi, adopted a resolution in September supporting a pilot project proposed by the Crow Nation to convert some of its coal to liquid fuels such as diesel and gasoline for domestic use. The tribe’s plan, which Stewart said illustrates that the Crow are not entirely reliant on coal exports, also gained support from the National Congress of American Indians this fall. It still awaits federal approval.

The official document from the Northwest Indians, however, notes that their blessing does not “supersede, replace, or rescind” a resolution made by the group in May that opposed all proposals to increase transportation through the region of “fossil energy,” including both coal and unrefined crude oil.

About a week after the resolution’s adoption, Jewell Praying Wolf James’s totem pole pulled up in front of the Washington state capitol building in Olympia for another event opposing coal exports. Much like the other stops on the totem’s journey, this ceremony’s songs and speeches pointed to both the despair and hopes of Native Americans and the deeply complex tensions at hand.

A crowd of some 50 people, many representatives of local tribes, stood in the alternating rain and sun in front of the flatbed truck. Flanking the truck was a yard sign that read, “No coal exports. We can do better.”

Creating alternatives, experts agree, is prerequisite to combating climate change and sustaining resources for future generations — and even to passing judgment on any group that chooses to develop its coal, or buy and burn it.

“At the end of the day, we’re not going to stop fossil-fuel dependency if we don’t have an answer for how to create energy and create better lives,” said KC Golden, the Climate Solutions policy adviser. “The Crow and other folks across the world want a fair shot at the relative prosperity we enjoy. We have to have a better answer than digging up half of Montana and burning it in Asia.”

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.
PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

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: http://www.theolympian.com/2014/02/12/2980321/sweeping-review-for-sw-wash-coal.html#storylink=cpy

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 Earthfix.opb.org. ICTMN posted Part I last week.

RELATED: Documents Reveal Coal Exporter Disturbed Native Archaeological Site

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/01/09/coal-ships-and-tribal-fishing-grounds-152915

Tribal Fishery Opposes Washington Coal Terminal

Tribal treaty fishing rights give Washington tribes the opportunity to weigh in on, and even block, projects that could impact their fishing grounds.(Ashley Ahearn/KUOW Photo)

Tribal treaty fishing rights give Washington tribes the opportunity to weigh in on, and even block, projects that could impact their fishing grounds.(Ashley Ahearn/KUOW Photo)

December 11, 2013 Here&Now

About a quarter of all the coal the U.S. exports goes to Asian markets. To meet the demand, there are plans to build what would be the largest coal terminal in North America at a place called Cherry Point in the far northwestern corner of Washington state.

But there’s a hitch. The waters surrounding Cherry Point support a fishing industry worth millions of dollars. It’s also a sacred place for the Lummi tribe, whose reservation is nearby. And thanks to a landmark legal decision in the 1970s, tribes have the right to weigh in on — and even stop — projects that could affect their fishing grounds.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Ashley Ahearn of KUOW reports.

Reporter

Ashley Ahearn, environment reporter for KUOW and part of the regional multimedia collaborative project EarthFix.

 

Follow link to listen to Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It’s HERE AND NOW.

Coal prices are at the highest levels in months thanks to strong demand from Asian markets like China. And to help meet that demand, there are plans to build a huge new coal terminal in Washington State, at a place called Cherry Point. But the waters surrounding Cherry Point support a fishing industry that’s worth millions of dollars, and it’s a sacred place for the Lummi tribe, which has the right to weigh in on or put a stop to projects that could affect their fishing grounds.

From the HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, KUOW’s Ashley Ahearn reports.

ASHLEY AHEARN, BYLINE: Jay Julius and his crew pull crab pots up out of the deep blue waters near Cherry Point. From massive buckets on deck comes the clack and rustle of delicious Dungeness crabs in futile attempts at escape. We’re about 15 miles south of the Canadian border.

JAY JULIUS COUNCILMEMBER, LUMMI TRIBAL COUNCIL: That’s not bad.

AHEARN: Jay Julius is a member of the Lummi tribal council. His ancestors have fished these waters, just like he does now, for thousands of years. One out of every 10 Lummi tribal members has a fishing license, and the Lummi tribal fishery is worth $15 million annually.

COUNCIL: So now we’re entering the proposed area for the coal port. As you can see, the buoys start.

AHEARN: Dozens upon dozens of crab pots buoys dot the waters around us, like a brightly colored obstacle course as we approach Cherry Point.

COUNCIL: We see buoys up there.

AHEARN: If the Gateway Pacific Terminal is built, it could draw more than 450 ships per year to take the coal to Asia. Those ships would travel through this area of Cherry Point. The tribe is worried that its shellfish, salmon and halibut fishery will suffer.

COUNCIL: What does that mean to our treaty right to fish? This will be no more.

AHEARN: That treaty right to fish could play a major role in the review process for the Gateway Pacific Terminal and the two other coal terminals under consideration in the Northwest. In the mid-1800s, tribes in this region signed treaties with the federal government, seeding millions of acres of their land. But the tribal leaders of the time did a very smart thing, says Tim Brewer. He’s a lawyer with the Tulalip tribe.

TIM BREWER: What they insisted on was reserving the right to continue to fish in their usual and accustomed fishing areas. Extremely important part of the treaty.

AHEARN: Those treaty rights weren’t enforced in Washington until a momentous court decision in 1970s 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 fishing areas, has implications for development projects, like coal terminals.

BREWER: If a project is going to impair access to a fishing ground and that impairment is significant, that project cannot move forward without violating the treaty right.

AHEARN: And in recent decades, tribes have flexed to those treaty muscles. The Lummi stopped a fish farm that was planned for the water’s off of Lummi island in the mid-’90s. The tribe argued that constructing the floating net pens would block tribal access to their usual and accustomed fishing grounds.

BREWER: And in that case, the Corps of Engineers denied that permit on that basis. There was no agreement that was bled to be worked out there.

AHEARN: But in other situations, agreements had been made.

DWIGHT JONES: My name is Dwight Jones. We’re at L.A. Bay Marina.

AHEARN: Jones is the general manager of the marina. Behind where he’s standing, Seattle’s Space Needle pierces the downtown skyline in the distance.

JONES: L.A. Bay Marina is the largest privately owned and operated marina on the West Coast. We have about 1,250 slips.

AHEARN: The marina was built in 1991 after a decade of environmental review and haggling with the Muckleshoot tribe. The marina is within the tribe’s treaty fishing area.

JONES: It was contentious, I guess, would be the right word.

AHEARN: Could they have stopped this project from being built?

JONES: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely they could’ve stopped it.

AHEARN: But they didn’t. Instead, the tribe negotiated a settlement. The owners of L.A. Bay Marina paid the Muckleshoot more than a million dollars upfront. And for the next hundred years, they will give the tribe eight percent of their gross annual revenue.

JONES: Anybody in business can tell you that eight percent of your gross revenue is a huge number. It really affects your viability as a business, so…

AHEARN: What would you say to companies that are trying to build a coal terminal?

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: I’d say good luck. It’s a long road, and there will be a lot of cost and the chances are, the tribes will make it – will probably negotiate a settlement that works well for them and will be – not be cheap.

AHEARN: SSA Marine and Pacific International Terminals, the companies that want to build the terminal at Cherry Point, have lawyers and staff members trying to negotiate a deal with the Lummi. But Jay Julias, a Lummi councilmember, laughs when I asked him how he feels about the company’s efforts to make inroads with the tribe.

COUNCIL: I say they’re funny, but I think they’re quite disgusting. The way they’re trying to infiltrate our nation, contaminate it, use people – it’s nothing new.

AHEARN: SSA Marine declined repeated requests to be interviewed for this story. But they emailed a statement. It says: We sincerely respect the Lummi way of life and the importance of fishing to the tribe. We continue to believe we can come to an understanding with the Lummi nation regarding the Gateway Pacific Terminal project. For HERE AND NOW, I’m Ashley Ahearn in Seattle. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Northwest Tribe Opposes Coal Terminal, But How Hard Will They Fight It?

 Credit KUOW Photo/Ashley AhearnTribal treaty fishing rights give Washington tribes the opportunity to weigh in on, and even block, projects that could impact their fishing grounds.

Credit KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn
Tribal treaty fishing rights give Washington tribes the opportunity to weigh in on, and even block, projects that could impact their fishing grounds.

Dozens of crab pot buoys dot the waters around Lummi tribal member Jay Julius’ fishing boat as he points the bow towards Cherry Point – a spit of land that juts into northern Puget Sound near Bellingham, Wash.

It’s a spot that would be an ideal location to build a coal terminal, according to SSA Marine, one of two companies that hopes to build a terminal here. 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.

SSA Marine has its eye on Cherry Point because it’s surrounded by deep water with quick access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean.

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

“I think they’re quite disgusting,” Julius said 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.”

 

Credit KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn
Aboard a Lummi fishing boat just south of the Canadian border near Cherry Point.

‘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 $15 million annually.

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.

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.

 

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.

The tribal leaders of the time did a smart thing, said 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.”

But those fishing rights weren’t enforced in Washington until the Boldt Decision, a landmark court decision in 1974 that reaffirmed  tribal fishing rights established more than a century before.

“If a project is going to impair access to a fishing ground and that impairment is significant that project cannot move forward without violating the treaty right,” Brewer said.

Since the Boldt Decision, tribes have been fighting for their treaty rights.

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.

Learn more: Attend a Dec. 6 Town Hall Seattle discussion with KUOW/EarthFix reporter Ashley Ahearn.

But agreements have been made in other situations. The Elliott Bay Marina, the largest, privately-owned marina on the West Coast, was built in 1991 within the fishing area of the Muckleshoot tribe. It took 10 years of environmental review. The Muckleshoot fought the project but ultimately came to an agreement with marina supporters.

When Dwight Jones, general manager of the Elliott Bay Marina, was asked if he had any advice for companies that want to build coal terminals in the Northwest, he laughed.

“I’d say good luck,” Jones said. “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.”

Jones said the owners of Elliott Bay Marina paid the Muckleshoot more than $1 million up front and for the next 100 years 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 said. “It really affects your viability as a business.”

 

Credit KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn
A gathering of coal export opponents last summer at Cherry Point. The event was part of an anti-coal totem pole journey led by the Lummi Nation. Its tribal members fish at Cherry Point.

Starting Negotiations

SSA Marine and Pacific International Terminals – the companies that want to build the terminal at Cherry Point – have lawyers and staff members working to negotiate with the Lummi to build the terminal. The companies declined repeated requests for interviews.

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

In the letter the Lummi lay out their argument, 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: “These comments in no way waive any future opportunity to participate in government-to-government consultation regarding the proposed projects.”

This is the second installment of a two-part series. Read part one here.

Read more environmental coverage at EarthFix.

Cherry Point Update

 

By Jay Taber, Intercontinental Cry Magazine

Earlier this year, IC reported on the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance/Tea Party anti-Indian conference in Washington State, USA. Key to launching the CERA anti-Indian hate campaign in the Pacific Northwest, we noted, was the support of Tea Party radio host Kris Halterman.

As Ashley Ahearn reports at EarthFix, voters in Whatcom County have rejected Wall Street/Tea Party candidates in local elections this week. While Tea Party activist Kris Halterman bemoans seeing her PACs efforts go down in flames, she and Ahearn neglect to mention Halterman’s persistent promotion of anti-Indian bigotry on her KGMI Radio program. Seeing how Lummi Nation joined environmental activists and local Democrats in urging voters to support Halterman’s opponents, that might yet prove newsworthy as upcoming federal decisions on tribal treaty rights potentially challenge Wall Street’s plans to build the largest coal export terminal in North America on Lummi Indian burial grounds at Cherry Point.