‘We Draw The Line’: Coal-impacted Lummi Nation And Northern Cheyenne Unite In Solidarity

Photo by Paul Anderson

Photo by Paul Anderson

By Hannibal Rhoades, Intercontinental Cry

Offering solidarity to Indigenous Nations, last month five Carvers from the Lummi Nation House of Tears set out on a journey up the Pacific North West Coast hoping to send a message of Kwel’Hoy, or ‘We Draw The Line’ to the resource extraction industry. With them, lain carefully on the flat bed of a truck, the Lummi carried a beautifully-carved 22-foot cedar totem pole for Indigenous communities to bless along the way. Their journey gained international attention as a pilgrimage of hope, healing and determination for the embattled Indigenous Nations they visited.

The rich prairies and clear streams of Otter Creek, Montana, land of the Northern Cheyenne, were the first stop on the Totem Pole’s profound journey. Both the Lummi carvers who made the 1,200 mile trip inland and the Northern Cheyenne who received them, currently face major, interconnected threats from proposed coal mining developments. Bound by this common struggle the meeting of these Peoples resonated with a deep significance that replicated along the rest of the Lummi’s spiritual trail.

For several years now the Northern Cheyenne have been resisting Arch Coal Inc., the second largest coal producer in the U.S. In 2012, the company applied for permission to begin surface mining operations at Otter Creek spanning a vast 7,639-acre area. If the Montana State government approves of the company’s application, the impacts on public health, land, water and air quality would be significant, just as they have been elsewhere in Powder River country.

Other Indigenous Nations–including the Oglala Sioux whose traditional homelands and hunting grounds are located in southeastern Montana–have joined the Northern Cheyenne in their opposition to the proposed mine at Otter Creek. The impact of the proposed Arch Coal mine is also a concern to local ranchers, who are standing with their Northern Cheyenne neighbours. All parties are equally concerned about the likely impacts of the Tongue River Railroad Co’s proposed Tongue River railway that would serve Arch Coal’s Otter Creek mine.

Photo by Paul Anderson

Photo by Paul Anderson



In both the case of the mine and the railroad, Indigenous and other local communities have complained of a lack of fair process. They feel foresaken by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Surface Transportation Board, the bodies charged with ensuring a fair and transparent process. Both government agencies appear to be ignoring the cultural and environmental importance of the area and the desires of its residents in order to push both projects forward.

1,200 miles away, the Lummi Nation have been fighting a battle of their own. Pacific International Terminals plans to build the largest coal port in North America known as the Gateway Pacific Terminal, at Xwe’chi’eXen, or Cherry point, a Lummi ancestral village and burial ground. The new port, jointly owned by SSA Marine and Goldman Sachs, would become a hub for exporting coal from the interior. Coal from the Powder River Basin by Peabody Energy would be hauled by trains along BNSF rail lines from Montana and Wyoming through Sandpoint, Idaho, to Spokane, down through the Columbia River Gorge, then up along the Puget Sound coast to Cherry Point.

Linking the struggles of the Lummi and Northern Cheyenne Peoples, the railroads are raising concerns about impacts to human and environmental health as well local economies. The coal port itself poses a serious threat to the local and surrounding marine ecosystems and livelihoods, not to mention and the cultural and spiritual integrity of Cherry Point itself.

Speaking at the blessing of the Totem Pole at Otter Creek, Romona Charles, a Lummi carver, summed up the incredulity and resistance of the Lummi peoples to the proposed development saying: “It (Cherry Point) was an old village and it’s a known grave site. My people are from there…There has not been one time I thought, ‘Let’s go put a coal port at Arlington Cemetery.’”

Photo by Paul Anderson

Folks on the Northern Cheyenne admire the Kwell Hoy’ totem pole. (Photo by Paul Anderson)



The reason Lummi, Northern Cheyenne and local communities in Puget Sound and Otter Creek are facing this unprecedented threat comes down to the fact that the US has begun to favour ‘new’ fossil fuels such as natural gas extracted via fracking. Gas-fired power stations are cheaper to construct and permissions are easier to obtain as, according to the authorities, natural gas has fewer environmental impacts. This domestic change of tide has left coal ‘unfashionable’ and shifted the focus of coal mining companies to exporting the mineral to Asian markets. To do this, the extractive industries require new links (the railroads) between the interior and the coast, and new export hubs (the ports) to send the coal off to the next leg of its trip across the Pacific Ocean.

The environmental cost of this change in tactics and the new infrastructure it requires is vast. At a time when anthropogenic climate change has been unequivocally proven, the exploitation of one of the dirtiest fossil fuels around–in order to generate power half way around the globe– spells even more trouble for people and planet.

United in this knowledge as well as the struggle for their lands, their sacred sites and their right to decide, about one hundred people including the Lummi and Northern Cheyenne, conservationists, ranchers and local community members met at Otter Creek for the blessing of the Totem. Sundance Priest Kenneth Medicine Bull, who conducted the ceremony, revealed the ritual’s significance as a way to find a solidarity that transcends the generations. Speaking after the ceremony, he stated, “We need to protect our way of life…I addressed the grandfathers, those who have gone before us, and I told them the reason we were here, and I asked them to hear our prayer and stand beside us.”

For those gathered, the symbolic giving of the Totem marked not only the visible unity of concerned individuals, groups and Nations, but a renewed commitment to say No to mining and destruction and Yes to the protection of life and the cultures that nurture it. This collective commitment is at the heart of the Totem’s message of Kwel’Hoy and the purpose of its journey, as Lummi master carver Jewell Praying Wolf James explained to those gathered:

“We kill the Earth as if we [have] a license to do it. We destroy life on it as if we were superior. And yet, deep inside, we know we can’t live without it. We’re all a part of creation and we have to find our spot in the circle of life…We’re concerned about protecting the environment as well as people’s health all the way from the Powder River to the West Coast… We’re traveling across the country to help unify people’s voices; it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are at or what race you are–red, black, white or yellow–we’re all in this together.”

Leaving Otter Creek and the Powder River Country and, in the following days, ritually winding their way up the Pacific North West Coast from community to community, the Lummi carvers continued to spread the key messages of one-ness and unity throughout the rest of the Totem’s journey.

On September 30, the Totem finally arrived on the lands of the Tsleil-Waututh community in North Vancouver, BC. There, in the company of those standing courageously at the forefront of the struggle against the pipelines of the Alberta Tar Sands, the people planted the Totem pole. A permanent symbol of solidarity and opposition to destruction, the Totem pole stands tall as a reminder of our sacred obligation to the Earth and each another.

Kwel Hoy’.

Photos by Paul Anderson

Lummi Nation holds reef net fishery at Cherry Point

reef-net-fishery_6-300x200Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries, September 17, 2013

For the first time in generations, the Lummi Nation held a reef net fishery at Cherry Point.

“It feels good to say that as of yesterday, we, the Lummi Nation have been reef netting,” said Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew at a tribal event Aug. 28. “To know that tomorrow we will reef net and the days after we will too.”

The traditional reef net is suspended between two canoes. Tribal fishermen watch for the salmon to swim close to the surface, then lift the net.

“A sxwole (reef net) is a gift from our creator, therefore an inherent right,” said Al Scott Johnnie, tribal cultural administrative policy assistant. “The sockeye salmon spirit came to our people and showed them how to make the reef net from the willow and other materials that were used from long ago. This was a way of life for our people, and the method was also to allow our sockeye to go up into the river so they could replenish, because they were our extended family.”

Known in the tribal language as Xwe’chi’eXen, Cherry Point was a Lummi tribal village and traditional reef net site for hundreds of years. After the Lummi Nation signed the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855, tribal fishermen continued to reef net until about 1894, when non-Indian fish traps out-competed them, according to the 1974 U.S. v. Washington ruling that reaffirmed tribal treaty fishing rights.

A 1934 ban on fish traps in Puget Sound gave tribal fishermen renewed access to their traditional sites, but the 1939 opening of a cannery brought more competition from non-Indian fishermen who were able to reef net in more profitable locations.

In the U.S. v. Washington ruling, Judge George Boldt noted that there were 43 reef nets operating off Lummi Island at the time; none of them by tribal fishermen.

“Members of the Lummi Tribe are entitled to and shall have, as a matter of right, the opportunity to fish with reef nets in such areas,” Boldt wrote. “(W)hile non-treaty fishermen when licensed by the State to fish in reef net areas have the privilege of fishing in those areas ‘in common with’ Lummi Tribal members, they do not have the right to do so.”

North of Bellingham, Cherry Point is the site of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, a coal export facility that would be the largest in North America if built. Lummi tribal leaders strongly oppose the coal terminal, because of the damage it would do to natural resources and the traditional grounds.

The pink salmon reef net fishery celebrated the tribe’s traditional use of the area. “We want our young people to remember some of the teachings of our ancestors and this way of the reef net,” Johnnie said.

Eight Hot Environmental Battlegrounds in Indian Country

Terri Hansen, Indian Country Today Media Network

Corporate interests have been gobbling up indigenous land and rights since contact more than 500 years ago. Today, American Indians are still fighting to maintain their stewardship and the integrity of the land. From the uranium invasion of the Grand Canyon, to the trashing of sacred places in the name of renewable energy, here are some of the most environmentally embattled hot spots in Indian country.

1. Havasupai Tribe Challenges Grand Canyon Uranium Mine

The Havasupai, natives of Grand Canyon lands, sued the U.S. Forest Service on March 7, 2013 over its decision to allow Energy Fuels Resources Inc. to mine uranium near Grand Canyon National Park without initiating or completing tribal consultations, and without updating a 26-year-old federal environmental review. The lawsuit alleges violations of environmental, mining, public land and historic preservation laws.

RELATED: 20-Year Ban on New Uranium-Mining Claims in Grand Canyon Holds Up in Court

2. Keweenaw Bay Indians’ Fight Global Mining Corporation

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa in Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula had to fight for their clean water, sacred sites, and traditional way of life after the international Kennecott Eagle Minerals arrived 10 years ago to tunnel a mile underground near Lake Superior to reach metals in the ore. As the project moves toward completing its sulfide-extraction plan to mine copper and nickel from tribal lands in 2014, this fight is far from over.

RELATED: Keweenaw Bay Indians’ Fight Against Michigan Mine Detailed in Series

3. Lummi Stand Firm Against SSA Marine’s Proposed Cherry Point Coal Terminal

Members of the Lummi Nation protest plans for a coal rail terminal at Cherry Point, Washington state. (Photo: Associated Press)
Members of the Lummi Nation protest plans for a coal rail terminal at Cherry Point, Washington state. (Photo: Associated Press)

The Lummi Nation formally opposed SSA Marine of Seattle’s proposed Cherry Point terminal in a July 30 letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, as it will infringe on treaty fishing rights. SSA Marine wants a shoreline terminal with multiple rail lines near Bellingham, Wash., to export 48 million tons of Montana and Wyoming Powder River Basin coal annually—some likely from Crow Indian country—to Asia. In the past USACE has refused to process other permit applications if Indian tribes contend such projects violate treaty rights as defined by numerous federal court rulings. What’s next?

RELATED: Lummi Nation Officially Opposes Coal Export Terminal in Letter to Army Corps of Engineers

4. Desert Natives Fight Annihilation of Petroglyphs, Geopglyphs by Mega Renewable Power Projects

Multibillion-dollar solar power and wind projects fast-tracked for California’s pristine desert areas materialized in 2008 that would destroy hundreds of petroglyphs as well as giant earth drawings called geopglyphs. The plan prompted lawsuits by Native American tribes and La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle. A U.S. District Court ruling in December 2010 said that the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management had failed to consult with the Quechan Tribe before approving one project, stating that Native Americans are entitled to “special consideration” when agencies fulfill their consultation requirements under the National Historic Preservation Act.

The Coyote Mountains form the backdrop for this desert wilderness that is part of the Quechan Indian Tribe’s creation story. The desert floor would be scraped bare to make way for the 10-mile-long solar project.
The Coyote Mountains form the backdrop for this desert wilderness that is part of the Quechan Indian Tribe’s creation story. The desert floor would be scraped bare to make way for the 10-mile-long solar project.

Yet in early 2002 after the Genesis solar plant disrupted cultural and cremation sites of the Colorado River tribes BLM Deputy State Director Thomas Pogacnik said Native Americans had good reason to be angry about his agency’s fast-track process that relied almost entirely on data from developers to determine where to place the first “high-priority” wind and solar projects on public land.  The battles rages on.

RELATED: Tribes Fear Destruction of Cultural Sites by Solar Project

5. Quapaw Tribe Sues United States Over Mining Mess

The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma filed suit March 25, 2013 against the United States for copy75 million for financial mismanagement and failure to ensure that mining companies had appropriately cleaned and restored their reservation after discontinuing the largest lead and zinc mining operation in the country, which produced billions of dollars in ore. Now, much of their land is polluted and lies within the Tar Creek Superfund Site. In a 10-year investigation the tribe said it found that a close relationship between the federal government, U.S. Department of Interior, and mining companies contributed to the lack of meaningful cleanup. Few members of the tribe benefited from the tribe’s mineral wealth.

RELATED: Quapaw Tribe Files Suit Against Federal Government for Alleged Land Mismanagement

6. Northern Wisconsin Tribes Take on Gogebic Taconite LLC

The problems keep coming for Gogebic Taconite’s proposed open pit iron ore mine in Wisconsin’s Gogebic Iron Range. Against it are the Lac Courte Oreilles and Bad River tribes. ICTMN brought to light a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ July 2013 letter to GTAC warning of the potential presence of a deadly form of asbestos, and GTAC’s dismissal of the agency’s concern in a written reply. ICTMN also reported that Wisconsin legislators ignored crucial scientific evidence when they passed legislation underwritten by GTAC last March that facilitated the project.

RELATED: Wis. Mining War

7. Sacred San Francisco Peaks Sewage Drench Staved Off

The San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, sacred to more than a dozen tribes, gave rise to lawsuits when in 2002 the U.S. Forest Service lessee, Arizona Snowbowl, began plans to expand a ski area on one of the peaks. Doing so meant not only clear-cutting a huge swath of rare alpine tundra but also making snow from reclaimed wastewater, including sewage, pumped in from nearby Flagstaff by cacophonous machines operating around the clock. The Hopi Tribe won its latest round on April 25, when the Arizona Court of Appeals overturned a 2011 ruling by a former Coconino County Superior Court judge, clearing the way for them to challenge the city of Flagstaff’s contract to sell reclaimed wastewater to Arizona Snowbowl.

8. A Losing Battle for Uranium Mine in Navajo Country

A joke that was circulating on Facebook recently said that if Wate Mining wanted to extract uranium from Arizona state land it would have to catapult the 500,000 annual pounds of ore to the processing mill in Utah. Why? Navajo country surrounds the state land. Officially, the Navajo Department of Justice responded to the mineral lease application in May, saying, “Given the (Navajo) Nation’s history with uranium mining, it is the nation’s intent to deny access to the land for the purpose of prospecting for or mining of uranium.”

These are just a few of the battles being fought to preserve the environment against corporate interests in Indian country. Follow even more conflicts below.

With Billions at Stake in Bristol Bay, Mining Company Spends Big

Winnemem Wintu Tribe Wrestles With Bureaucracy to Perform Sacred Ritual

Proposed Alaska Coal Mine Divides Alaska Communities, Elicits Racist Rant


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/08/27/eight-hot-environmental-battlegrounds-indian-country-151054

In the way of progress: Indians and their sacred grounds

By Jay Taber, Intercontinental Cry

Collusion between the U.S. Government and Wall Street to deprive Native Americans of their treaty-guaranteed property goes back to the beginning of the country. Over two and a half centuries, that collusion has comprised both brutal coercion and devious subterfuge, ethnic cleansing coinciding with kidnapping and religious persecution.

While alienating indigenous property in the past entails many broken promises and treaties between the United States and American Indian tribes, the failure to prosecute corporate criminality on Indian reservations in the present is a symptom of the demise of the rule of law in the US that undermines the U.S. Constitution and protections that guard against corporate corruption of governance at all levels. As indigenous governments in the United States assert jurisdiction over their resources under national and international law, the corrupting influence of Wall Street threatens not only Indians and their sacred grounds, but democracy itself.

As Jewell Praying Wolf James writes in his August 2013 special supplement to Whatcom Watch, The Search for Integrity in the Conflict Over Cherry Point as a Coal Export Terminal, the Lummi Indian Tribe ancient village and burial ground at Cherry Point is in the way of progress. As such, Pacific International Terminals, its financial backer Goldman Sachs, and Edelman — the world’s biggest public relations firm — have their work cut out for them.

Having recently settled a $1.6 million lawsuit for illegally and intentionally bulldozing the ancient Cherry Point Lummi village of Xwe’chi’eXen — the first archaeological site placed on the Washington State Register of Historic Places — Pacific International Terminals is actively seeking to corrupt local and tribal elections, as well as influence members of Congress. While PIT — one of the largest marine operators in the world — was able to avoid criminal prosecution for desecrating sacred Lummi grounds, it isn’t leaving anything to chance when it comes to securing approval for its project on Lummi Reservation lands previously stolen by U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs agents on behalf of illegal white settlers.

History, as they say, has a way of repeating itself.

Bad news, coal industry: Proposed export terminal is in for a tough review

By Eric de Place and Clark Williams-Derry, Cross-posted from Sightline Daily, Source: Grist.org

Editor’s note: The coal industry is desperate to ship its product to Asia because demand here in the U.S. has dropped. Three coal export terminals are currently proposed for Washington and Oregon (down from six a year ago). Before they can be built, their environmental impacts must be evaluated. Climate activists have been calling for broad evaluations of the myriad impacts, while industry wants just narrow studies done. Today comes word that the environmental impact study for one of the proposed terminals will be wide-ranging and rigorous — a win for anti-coal activists. 

Hot off the presses: The three “co-lead” agencies in charge of reviewing the proposed Gateway Pacific coal export terminal at Cherry Point, Wash., have published the scope of their review. The major takeaway is that it’s bad news for the coal industry.

The industry did win an empty victory with the Army Corps of Engineers, the sole federal agency at the table, which opted for a narrow scope of review. But in the end it doesn’t much matter. One of the other lead agencies, the Washington Department of Ecology, is going to require in-depth analysis of four elements that the coal industry had desperately hoped to avoid:

  • A detailed assessment of rail transportation’s impacts on representative communities in Washington and a general analysis of out-of-state rail impacts.
  • An assessment of how the project would affect human health in Washington.
  • A general assessment of cargo-ship impacts beyond Washington waters.
  • An evaluation and disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions of end-use coal combustion.

Of those, two stand to be particularly damaging for would-be coal exporters: rail impacts and greenhouse gas emissions. There’s not a lot of wiggle room with either of those elements.

First, burning the 48 million tons of coal proposed for export at the terminal annually would release roughly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide, a staggering figure that amounts to as much carbon pollution as every activity in the state of Washington combined. In other words, it’s a clear environmental disaster that would overshadow every other effort the state has made to reduce climate-changing emissions.

Second, moving that much coal to a terminal will create congestion throughout the region. There’s simply no way around the math. In Seattle, for example, both Sightline and the traffic analysis firm Parametrix have confirmed that new coal export shipments would completely close major center city streets by an additional one to three hours every day, 365 days per year.

What’s worse for the coal industry is that the expansive scope of review will likely create further delay and uncertainty, potentially scaring off investors. Just yesterday, in fact, executives from Cloud Peak Energy, which plans to mine up to 10 millions tons of coal a year in Montana and ship it out through West Coast ports, griped about the slow progress on coal export terminals during a sad-sack discussion of its weak second-quarter earnings.

Now that public agencies will be tallying the manifest pollution, health, climate, and congestion impacts of the Gateway Pacific coal terminal, there’s likely to be even more opposition to planned export terminals. Plus, given more analysis and a wider exploration of the proposal’s problems, opponents will likely find abundant opportunities to litigate, which would of course create even more delay and uncertainty.

So the bottom line of today’s announcement for the proposed Gateway Pacific coal terminal: long delays, high costs, more opportunities for public opposition, and a near-certainty of litigation. Coupled with the ongoing collapse in Pacific Rim coal prices, it’s not a fun time to be in the Northwest coal export business.

Eric de Place is a senior researcher at Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based sustainability think tank.

Clark Williams-Derry is research director for the Seattle-based Sightline Institute, a nonprofit sustainability think tank working to promote smart solutions for the Pacific Northwest. He was formerly the webmaster for Grist.

Even without terminals, coal trains will increase

Trains would feed growing, but much smaller, terminals in B.C.

Jennifer Buchanan / The HeraldA coal train passes through Everett in May. Proposed export terminals would increase the number of trains between Seattle and Bellingham.

Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald
A coal train passes through Everett in May. Proposed export terminals would increase the number of trains between Seattle and Bellingham.

Bill Sheets, The Daily Herald

If coal export terminals proposed for the Pacific Northwest are never built, the number of trains rumbling through Washington state filled with coal would still increase.

Coal is already shipped from British Columbia, and terminals there are expanding.

Based on projected numbers, however, those increases would not come close to equaling the combined capacity of the terminals proposed for Cherry Point near Bellingham and two others in the Northwest.

Opponents of building coal export terminals in Washington say they would bring traffic congestion from the number of trains, and generate coal dust and greenhouse gases.

Supporters say Cherry Point will create jobs — 4,400 temporary, construction-related jobs and 1,200 long-term positions, according to SSA Marine, the Seattle company that wants it built.

If Washington says no to the terminal, coal trains will still come through Western Washington, but the jobs will go north to Canada, SSA Marine spokesman Craig Cole said.

“We do know there’s demand (for coal in Asia) and port operators will seek to service that demand, whether they’re in the United States or British Columbia,” he said.

The proposed $650 million Gateway Pacific terminal at Cherry Point would add an average of 18 trips per day — nine full trains going north and nine empty trains traveling southbound — between Seattle and Bellingham. Marysville, which has 16 street crossings, and Edmonds, with a crossing at the ferry dock, would be the communities most affected in Snohomish County.

On average, about four coal trains per day pass through Snohomish County on their way to Canada, according to BNSF Railway.

The Cherry Point terminal could ship an estimated 60 million tons per year of coal, grain, potash and scrap wood for biofuels to Asia. Coal would make up the bulk of the shipments, according to the state Department of Ecology, which is handling the environmental review for the project. That review is expected to take at least a couple more years.

The Millennium terminal proposed for Longview, Wash., would have a coal capacity of about 48 million tons, according to the ecology department. Trains to this port would travel across the state but not north to Seattle and beyond.

Another smaller terminal targeted for Boardman, Ore., on the Columbia River could handle just under 9 million tons.

Together, these ports could ship 117 million tons per year.

Possible expansions at the five ports in British Columbia could add 55 million tons per year to their current capacity, according to numbers compiled by SSA Marine.

If all of the B.C. expansions come to pass, they would roughly equal the output of Gateway Pacific.

“There will be additional coal that will be going to British Columbia, and we will be working hard to increase the percentage,” said Jim Orchard, senior vice president of marketing and government affairs for Cloud Peak Energy, a coal-mining company based in Denver.

At the same time, it won’t equal what could be shipped through the U.S. terminals, he said.

Cloud Peak operates two mines in Wyoming and one in southeastern Montana, in the area known as the Powder River Basin, Orchard said.

The greater the shipping capacity, the faster the coal can be mined without piling up, he said.

Without the U.S. terminals, “the timing with which we get to new reserves, it just would take longer,” Orchard said.

The largest potential British Columbia terminal expansion could occur at Ridley Terminals in Prince Rupert, B.C., 460 miles north of Vancouver by air.

This port gets ships to northern Asian ports one day faster than those sailing from Vancouver and three days faster than ships leaving from Long Beach, Calif., according to the Ridley website.

Right now, Ridley handles about 12 million tons per year. It has plans to double to 24 million tons, but has access to a vacant area nearby that could allow it to grow by 36 million tons or more on top of its current capacity, according to numbers compiled by SSA Marine.

It could potentially grow by even more than that.

Adjacent to Ridley’s current terminal is a 110-acre wooded tract called “Area A” that could be used by the terminal for further expansion, according to quotes from Ridley president George Dorsey in Coal Age magazine in March 2012.

“All that’s needed are the capital investments necessary,” Ridley said in the story. “Area A gives us the capacity to double the facility, from 24 (million tons) to 50 (million tons) and beyond. There’s so much space, it’s infinitely expandable.”

A Ridley official could not be reached for further comment.

“B.C. terminal operators are very competitive and capable and, like most businesses, will creatively endeavor to find a way to meet needs,” said SSA Marine’s Cole.

Still, Prince Rupert’s distance from the U.S. mines would increase travel costs, said Dennis Horgan, vice president and general manager of the Westshore Terminal in Tsawwassen.

“It’s a long way up there,” he said.

Currently, BNSF trains carrying coal through Washington end their run at Tsawwassen, said Courtney Wallace, a spokeswoman for the railroad.

Westshore is increasing its capacity by 4 million tons per year, to 33 million, and will be maxed out, Horgan said.

Some trains do pass over the Canadian Rockies carrying coal from Wyoming mines to Prince Rupert, according to Horgan.

“It’s still a long way,” he said.

Most of the coal shipped from Prince Rupert comes from British Columbia, Horgan said.

Westshore and Ridley ship only coal, he said. Neptune Terminal and Fraser Surrey Docks in Vancouver handle a mix, and Pacific Coast Terminals, based in Port Moody, ships mostly sulfur but has plans to add coal, according to Horgan. These terminals put together are much smaller than the Tsawwassen and Prince Rupert facilities.

Other commodities could figure into the picture, Wallace of BNSF Railway said.

“It is important to keep in mind that freight rail traffic will increase with or without coal export,” she said in an email. “Train volumes through any community ebb and flow based on several factors: market demand, customer needs, economic conditions, etc.

“Washington state’s economy is built on trade and ports and demand is increasing domestically for all goods as the population grows,” she said. “That’s a good thing, especially for a state like Washington that is heavily dependent on trade.”

Environmental coalition wants single coal port study

By Bill Sheets, The Herald

A coalition of environmental groups is asking the federal government to step in and combine the environmental studies for three different coal export terminal proposals into one.

In addition to the Gateway Pacific terminal proposed for Cherry Point near Bellingham, export terminals also are proposed for Longview in southwest Washington and Boardman, Ore., on the Columbia River.

Earthjustice, a Seattle environmental law firm, sent a letter on Wednesday to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offices in Seattle and Portland.

The letter was signed by 11 environmental groups, including Climate Solutions, National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club and the Washington Environmental Council.

The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, a Seattle-based group of business organizations and others formed to support the export terminals, issued a counterstatement to the environmental groups’ request Wednesday.

“This is a stall tactic, pure and simple,” said Lauri Hennessey, a spokeswoman for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports.

“We continue to support the (environmental study) process as it exists today.”

Meanwhile, last week, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, a coalition of tribes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Northern California, issued a joint resolution opposing fossil fuel exports.

“We will not allow our treaty and rights, which depend on natural and renewable resources, to be demolished by shortsighted and ultimately detrimental investments,” said Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon, Jr., who is a vice chairman for the tribal coalition, in a written statement.

The environmental groups’ letter points out that while the terminals will be located only in those three towns, the trains will be carrying coal from Montana and Wyoming across Idaho and Washington state.

The Gateway Pacific terminal, proposed by SSA Marine of Seattle, would serve as a place to send coal, grain, potash and scrap wood for biofuels to Asia. Trains would bring coal from Montana and Wyoming across Washington state to Seattle and north through Snohomish County to Bellingham.

The terminal is expected to generate up to 18 more train trips through Snohomish County per day — nine full and nine empty.

Proponents, including U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., point to job creation. Opponents say the plan could mean long traffic delays at railroad crossings and pollution from coal dust.

More than 14,000 people registered comments on the Gateway Pacific plan last fall and winter. The comments are being used to determine the environmental issues to be studied. The process is expected to take at least a couple of more years.

Meetings were not held in Montana or Idaho despite the fact that trains will be rolling through those states, the groups point out.

The petition asks for the area-wide study to include the effects of increased mining in Wyoming and Montana; increased rail traffic throughout Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon; and the effect of coal exports on domestic energy security and pricing. The petition also asks for hearings to be held around the region.

On the positive side, the plan is projected to create 1,200 long-term positions and 4,400 temporary, construction related jobs, according to SSA Marine.

No hearings have been held yet for the Longview terminal, said Larry Altose, a spokesman for the state Department of Ecology. The Army Corps of Engineers has yet to require a study for the terminal in Oregon, according to Power Past Coal.

Common aspects of the two terminals in Washington state may be studied together as it stands now, he said. The ecology department and Army Corps of Engineers are working on both the Bellingham and Longview proposals, with help from Whatcom and Cowlitz counties, respectively.

For instance, if train traffic from the Longview terminal has a ripple effect on train traffic north of Seattle, or vice versa, then it may be included in both studies, Altose said. The same goes for any other issues, such as coal dust, that may be addressed in the studies, he said.

Washington’s ecology department, of course, does not have jurisdiction in Oregon.

Therefore “the unified approach is something that would involve the federal government,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers office in Seattle could not be reached for comment.

124,000+ comments received for proposed Cherry Point terminal

Whatcom County, Washington Depart. of Ecology, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
February 6, 2013

Source: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/news/2013/043.html


The public provided more than 124,000 comments on the scope of an upcoming environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed bulk-cargo shipping terminal and rail spur improvements at Cherry Point, according to a preliminary count by the three agencies that conducted a recently-concluded four-month public comment period.

Form-letters or e-mails made up approximately 108,000 of the total, submitted by people who responded to 24 organized comment campaigns identified so far.  The agencies received more than 16,000 uniquely worded comments. Work continues on a final comment count and breakdown. 

The 121-day comment period ran from Sept. 24, 2012, to Jan. 22, 2013. 

The official website, http://www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/, provides additional details about the scoping process, project proposals, and displays comments received. 

Pacific International Terminals, a subsidiary of SSA Marine Inc. (SSA), proposes to build and operate the Gateway Pacific Terminal between Ferndale and Blaine. The terminal would provide storage and handling of exported and imported dry bulk commodities, including coal, grain, iron ore, salts and alumina. BNSF Railway Inc. proposes to add rail facilities and install a second track along the six-mile Custer Spur.

Whatcom County, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) together are conducting the EIS process for the proposed terminal projects and jointly will produce one EIS. Whatcom County and Ecology must follow the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), and the Corps must follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Scoping is a preliminary phase of the EIS process when the agencies identify potential adverse impacts and decide which of these to analyze in the EIS. The three lead agencies gathered input from other agencies, tribes and the public. After considering comments, the lead agencies will decide what should be included in the EIS.

The EIS will evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives, potentially affected resources, significant unavoidable adverse impacts of various alternatives, and explore possible means to avoid, minimize and mitigate effects of the proposals.

The three co-lead agencies hosted seven public meetings during the comment period, which drew total attendance of more than 8,700.  People at the meetings submitted 1,419 hand-written comments and 1,207 verbal comments.  Of the verbal comments, 865 were given in front of audiences, and 342 were recorded individually. 

The agencies consider all comments on an equal basis, regardless of how people submitted them.

The joint NEPA/SEPA EIS process enables the co-lead agencies to avoid duplicated efforts where the two laws overlap, while meeting each statute’s separate requirements.  Parts of the joint EIS process described on the website apply to both statutes and parts apply to one or the other.

The scoping process does not address whether the proposal should receive permits. Scoping only helps define what will be studied in the EIS.  Decisions about issuing permits to construct the proposed projects will not be made until after the EIS is complete.

The co-lead lead agencies plan to issue a scoping report in the next few weeks with a thorough assessment of the comments. Then, they will review that input and issue plans later this year for a draft EIS, which may take at least a year to prepare. The lead agencies will seek public comment on the draft EIS, and then produce a final NEPA/SEPA EIS.

Tualip says “Hell no to Coal”

Article by Monica Brown and Photos by Francesca Hillery, Public Affairs

Nearly 2500 concerned citizens gathered Dec 13th at Seattle’s convention center for the last Coal meeting in order hear others thoughts and ideas and voice their own opinions about the coal train proposal. Tulalip Chairman Mel Sheldon was one of many that were able to speak to the crowds.

“The Tulalip Tribes support job creation. We are one of the largest employers in our area,” Sheldon said. “But we will not tolerate anything that poses threats to our cultural resources, our health and our treaty rights to fish, hunt and gather. The tribes and local, state and federal governments have worked hard to improve the environment, but it won’t mean much if we find coal dust in fragile waters of the Salish Sea.”

The proposal is to transport tons of coal by railway, eighteen trains a mile and a half each, from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming through our backyard to Cherry Point for tanker shipment to Asia. Cherry Point, a sacred site for our neighbor tribe the Lummi nation, have vehemently stated their position against the Cherry Point proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal which would be detrimental to the current ecosystem at Cherry Point  which harbors not only a fragile herring population but also a sacred burial site of the Lummi nation.

“Never will Tulalip support the degradation of our ancestral burial grounds as would in this project. Whether they be here at Tulalip, or on Lummi burial grounds at Cherry Point, we stand in solidarity with our Coast Salish relatives  in our solemn responsibility to our ancestors and to our sacred lands” Stated Mel Sheldon

The proposed coal exports to china would mean millions of dollars in revenue and new jobs that would be available for years to come. The negative impacts on the environment from the use of coal outweigh the positives with the damage mining causes to its place of origin, the dust that comes off seeps into everything from water to our lungs and the burning of coal emits CO2 which depletes the ozone layer.

Mel Sheldon finished with, “From whitecap to whitecap, or the peaks of the Cascade Mountains to the Salish Sea, it is our responsibility to our ancestors, our elders, and to future generations to protect and preserve the air, water, fish and other resources that we depend on.”

Recently, tribal members from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation along with the National Wildlife Federation and conservation groups have started protesting the coal mining in the Powder River Basin stressing that the mining is destroying the habitat and polluting the Otter River which connects to the Tongue River and Yellowstone River.

The US is the second largest coal producer, producing and estimated 1004 million tons in the year 2011, with Wyoming being the top coal producing state, mining 438.5 million tons (mt) in the year 2011. China is the largest coal importing and coal producing country, importing an estimated 190mt and producing 3471mt in the year 2011.



Thousands of comments from residents of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana addressing their concerns of the coal trains environmental impact can be viewed here,



To view the Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal/Custer Spur visit this sight,




Comments can be submitted until January 21, 2013 here,





Statistical information from; World Coal Association and Bureau of Land Management