US Army Corps Pulls the Plug on Washington Coal Terminal

The USD 665 million Gateway Pacific Terminal project at Cherry Point near Ferndale, Washington, has been denied permit to move ahead by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers amid environmental concerns.

“After careful consideration of all the information available to him, Seattle District Commander Col. John Buck has determined the potential impacts to the Lummi Nation’s usual and accustomed (U&A) fishing rights from the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal are greater than de minimis,” the Army Corps said in a statement, adding that as a result the project cannot be permitted.

The deep-water marine terminal was being proposed by Pacific International Terminals, a joint venture between SSA Marine and Cloud Peak Energy, and it had been intended to handle export up to 54 million dry metric tons per year of bulk commodities, mostly coal.

The proposed export terminal and associated rail expansion had obtained initial permit in 1997 from Whatcom County for construction and operation. However, due to the changes to the size and scope of the proposal, the county determined that a new shoreline permit was required for the project and that the proposal was subject to a full environmental review.

In 2015 the Seattle District received a request from the Lummi Nation for the Corps to deny a permit requested for the GPT project citing impacts to their usual and accustomed treaty rights and included affidavits about their fishing practices and statements about potential impacts from the construction and operation of the terminal.

Following a review, the Army Corps said that it has notified PIH that the GPT Project as currently planned is not permissible.

The agency said that should the Lummi Nation withdraw its objections to the proposal, the proponent could reinitiate processing of the application. Nevertheless, a number of other tribes have expressed concern about effects of the proposal on their treaty rights, so consultation with those tribes would ensue and their clearance would have to be obtained in order for the project to be given the green light.

The decision comes after the developer requested for the review decision to be delayed due to “uncertainty and related costs”.

World Maritime News Staff

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