Washington Coal Export Project in Jeopardy

Published September 15, 2015

Montana congressmen are urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to disregard a request from the Lummi Tribe to abandon an environmental review of the proposed Gateway Pacific coal export terminal at Cherry Point in Bellingham, Washington.

The Lummi fish next to Cherry Point and argue the terminal would violate their treaty fishing rights.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) led a bipartisan group of federal legislators who urged USACE to complete the environmental impact statement (EIS). If USACE dismisses the review process before completion, the project will be effectively shut down.

“There is no reason for the Corps to stop working on an EIS,” said Daniel Simmons, vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research. “The point of an EIS is to assess the environmental impact and collect information. Producing an EIS does not harm the Lummi Tribe.”

“Plain and simple, it’s wrong to skirt the environmental impact study, and I am proud to join Senator Daines in leading a bipartisan coalition to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to honor the process,” said Zinke in a statement.

“I’m deeply concerned that the Corps is considering skipping critical steps of the review process for this proposal—in turn, jeopardizing the future of this job-creating project,” Daines said in a statement.

Environmental Review Ongoing

“The Corps is continuing to conduct an evaluation of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal,” said Patricia Graesser, spokesperson for the Seattle District of USACE.

There is no deadline for making a determination about the Lummi Tribe’s request, and Graesser did not specify whether an environmental impact statement would be completed.

The review for the Cherry Point terminal, which is expected to create 4,000 jobs, was expected to be published for public comment in the first half of 2016. The first stages of the environmental review process started in 2012.

“[It] will help create thousands of good Montana jobs and help the Crow Tribe increase economic opportunity for their people,” Daines said in his statement. 

Other Stakeholders Chime In

The Crow Tribe of Montana also has a stake in the Cherry Point port. It will likely export coal from its reservation through Cherry Point to Japan and South Korea.

“Both tribes’ interests should be weighed in the Army Corps environmental review,” Daines said.

The Cherry Point port has garnered support from the Crow Tribe and a number of groups, including local labor unions, business organizations, the agricultural industry, and local governments.

“I will not stand idly by as the Gateway Pacific Terminal becomes the next Keystone XL Pipeline [expansion],” said Zinke in his statement.

“It’s critical that the Corps maintain its commitment to completing a full and thorough review of this project and provide all stakeholders with the opportunity to make their voices heard,” Daines’ statement concluded.

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.