Timely Updates

Three major victories in the past two weeks should give heart to those who wonder whether we won’t be overwhelmed by corporate coal interests.

First there is the decision by Whatcom County Planning and Development Services that Gateway Pacific applicant, SSA Marine must reapply for the Shorelines permit, that their initial application filed in 1997 did not address the possibility of their project being a coal port.

The second major achievement in this struggle the Washington State Department of Ecology agreeing to Whatcom County’s request that the state co lead the adjudication of the Environmental Impact Statement concerning GPT.

The third major decision concerns a parallel interest in the Tongue River Valley in Montana, where a BNSF rail project could transform a bucolic back country area into an industrial corridor. A 3 judge Panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the federal Surface Transportation Board had to reconsider and properly consider environmental impacts of running a coal train through the Tongue River Valley. The court was saying that in this case, mitigation of problems was putting the cart before the horse. The Panel’s decision lends strength to the safeguardthesouthfork concern that impacts on the Farm Land Route must be assessed in the EIS prior to permitting of GPT.

Your SGSF board is working hard on behalf of you, our readers and supporters. We are involved in the following initiatives:

  • Meeting with Utilities and Transportation Commission Officials to discuss rail impacts;
  • Coordinating a meeting with Senator Murray’s office where we expect to discuss rail and geopolitical issues which bear upon the siting of the port;
  • Communicating with the United States Coast Guard to verify the extent to which the growth of shipping in the Salish Sea from the U.S and Canada might effect the permitting of GPT;
  • Utilizing a data bank we acquired from the Whatcom County Assessor that provides us with information pertinent to land ownership along the Farm Land Route;
  • Drafting and Distributing a letter and survey for residents along the Farmland Route;
  • Greeting Rick Larsen at the Deming Library, who will be commemorating the advancement of technological services for the library. Join us in politely congratulating him for taking the needs of county residents seriously.

If you are pleased with the work that we are doing on your behalf write to us and offer your suggestions. Your support is always appreciated.

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Action Update: Revised Permit

As outlined below, Pacific International Terminals (SSA Marine) filed for permits with Whatcom County for the Gateway Pacific Terminal, but did not file for a new shoreline permit. Rather, they have filed for a revised permit.  You can read about it in the

This past Friday, Earth Justice, the attorneys who sued Ambre Energy for attempting to circumvent the environmental scoping process in Cowlitz County which resulted in withdrawal of the permit application there, gave notice to Whatcom County that SSA’s permit application is incomplete because it does not ask for a new shoreline permit.  The letter is here.The county has until Friday, June 23, to complete its review of the application and determine whether it is complete or should be returned to SSA. If Whatcom County Planning Division does not follow state law governing revised Shoreline Substantial Development Permits, it is possible that the county will be met with a lawsuit it would cost this county scarce resources to defend their administrative position.

Please consider expressing your opinion to Tyler Schroeder (360-676-6907,techroed@cc.whatcom.wa.us) at Whatcom County Planning & Development Services. Tyler is one of the primary decision makers in charge of the application review. If you feel inclined, you may also contact the county executive: Pete Kremen (pkremen@co.whatcom.wa.us, 360-676-6717).

RESources has some great information available on the importance of taking action during this stage of the process.

Permits and Politics: Pacific International Terminals (SSA Marine)

Proponents of the Gateway Pacific Terminal have asked people to withhold judgments against the process until a thorough EIS review is complete.So what should we make of SSA Marine trying to subvert the process that they encourage us to trust?

Here is a copy of the letter by Earth Justice on behalf of Climate Solutions, Sierra Club and RE Sources sent to Whatcom County in response to Pacific International Terminals (SSA Marine’s) filing of a Major Project Permit and a “Shoreline Substantial Development Permit ” this past week (6/17/11).

Simply put, filing to “revise” a fourteen year old permit attempts to circumvent the law by trying to portray a 300 times larger footprint of the terminal with a 600% volume increase (meaning an increase in ship traffic from 180 to 480 annually) as a minor change. Oh, and then there is the fact that the 1997 permit authorizes the shipment of “grains, petroleum coke, iron ore, sulfur, potash, and wood chips” with no mention whatsoever of coal as a primary export product. As far as public comments regarding the scoping process and the EIS are concerned, because the legality of the permits that have been filed is an open question, we encourage you to wait to comment on the project to county officials until the public comment period is announced during the scoping process.  Once the public comment period for scoping is announced, it means that the county has accepted the permit application. This is not currently the case.

Please contact Tyler Schroeder (360-676-6907, techroed@cc.whatcom.wa.us) at Whatcom County Planning & Development Services or County Executive Pete Kremen (pkremen@co.whatcom.wa.us, 360-676-6717] to NOT PERMIT SSA Marine “at the early stage of the process—to circumvent that close scrutiny, public process and regulatory review by applying for a permit revision rather than a new permit” (Letter to Tyler Schroeder 6/17/11.)