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, at Whatcom County Planning & Development Services or County Executive Pete Kremen (, 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.)


Upcoming Events: Bill McKibben and Mayor Pike


RE Sources is hosting Bill McKibben at the Fairhaven Village Green on Tuesday, May 31st at 5:00pm.  The event starts with an information fair and a performance by local band Mille and The Mentshn at 5pm, Bill will take the stage at 7:00. This event is free and open to the public. Invite your friends and neighbors! Click here for more information.

The following evening, Mayor Pike of Bellingham will hold a listening session regarding the coal terminal at 6pm on Wed, June 1 in the large courtroom in Municipal Court. It is important for county residents to make a showing at both the McKibben event and at the listening session to be sure that our voices and concerns are adequately represented and expressed. For those of us living along the alternative or inland route, you might want to brief your self on Mayor Pike’s firm stance towards BNSF considering this route for coal transport and prepare to speak at the meeting in response to similar assumptions.

While BNSF followed Pike’s public comments with their own public announcement claiming that the shoreline route is the only practical route to the proposed GP terminal,we’ll be posting a few facts here on why we don’t trust BNSF. For now, consider attending these events to speak up and defend Whatcom county-wide from the proposals currently on the table from SSA Marine and BNSF.

Recap: Cherry Point Bellingham City Club Debate

KVOS has a 71 minute video available of the April 27th Bellingham City Club, Cherry Point Coal Terminal Debate.

For those of you that are actually able to stream video in the county, we think you will find the panel informative. For those unable to watch the video, we hope to have a fact sheet drafted and posted here by next week.

Speakers on the panel include:

SSA Marine Vice President Bob Watters and former Whatcom City County member Craig Cole, who has been hired by SSA to help promote the $500 million project.

Bob Ferris, executive director of RE Sources for Sustainable Community, and Matt Krough, RE Sources’ North Sound Baykeeper, were also on the panel and outlined the negative implications of the project.

We’d love to hear what you think.

Recap: Coal Train Forum

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Acme Elementary School tonight. It was great to hear the wisdom of the community alongside two informative speakers.

Bob Ferris of RESources discussed the scope of the environmental and social impacts of the proposed coal shipping terminal at Cherry Point. While his discussion certainly included information on the potential train impacts in the South Fork and upon Bellingham, we also learned about the additional environmental and social concerns related to the large-scale project that ranged from understanding the mining source at the Powder River Basin, to identifying the ecological impacts on wetlands at Cherry Point, as well as articulating the larger global concerns regarding the true cost of coal export to China.

Jeff Margolis drew on his expertise developed through his service on the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commitee. Jeff took a realist look at the proposed costs the county would be required to absorb in order to ensure safe public rail crossings that could handle the increased train traffic to Cherry Point. At present these crossings, by the way, range from gates and lights to nothing. Considering the leap in train traffic that would come with the Cherry Point coal export plan, the number of overpasses necessary to ensure public safety would offset much of the tax benefits forecasted in favor of the proposal. Jeff closed with a song and a recommendation for us to keep a 100-year mind, because from an intergenerational perspective 100 years is not long, particularly for families that have already been in the South Fork for longer than this amount of time.

Another highlight from tonight is that we took a step towards addressing the issue for ourselves. We showed up, shared, learned, and [in]formed opinions. Thank you! The conversation was passionate and forward thinking.

With this, there is quite a bit of work to be done in the next couple of weeks to define avenues for voicing concerns. We hope to continue conversations with other organizations working on this issue and to update you here about events, action items, and other opportunities to remain involved. We will also be getting an email list and Facebook page up and running soon.

Thank you to those who offered their assistance to work on the many action items that were expressed at the meeting tonight. If you are interested in spending some time on these needs/requests, please let us know at:

Oh…and keep your ears open for a regional National Public Radio [NPR] story tomorrow on tonight’s forum and SafeGuard the South Fork.

We each hold a piece and a story, so thank you for sharing!

Event: Coal Train Forum

Coal Train Forum
Acme Elementary School
April 28, 7:00-9:00PM

A community discussion of the possibility for round the clock, mile-and-a-half-long, open load coal trains to travel through the South Fork in route to the proposed Gateway Coal Terminal at Cherry Point.

Coal trains have a history of degrading human health, water, and agricultural & forestry lands, making communities along the “inland route” through Burlington, Sedro Woolley, Acme, Van Zandt, Deming, and points north and west out to the coast particularly vulnerable.

Bob Ferris, Executive Director, RESources for Sustainable Communities, Bellingham, WA will discuss the Proposed Gateway Terminal

Jeff Margolis, Proprietor, Everybody’s, Van Zandt, WA will present on “Safeguarding Public Rail Crossings.”

Nicole Brown, on behalf of Safeguard the South Fork, will facilitate a community dialogue and present action items.