Commentary

Status report on Whatcom County permitting process for Gateway Pacific coal terminal

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Photo of slide featuring the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal project. Slide is from a March 20, 2012 presentation on the Environmental Review Process for the Gateway Pacific Terminal and BNSF Custer Spur Proposal, given by Whatcom County Planning and Development Services, and the Washington Department of Ecology.

UPDATE: This article was updated on February 11, 2017. It was originally published on February 1, 2017.

GPT applicant Pacific International Holdings/Pacific International Terminals, sent a February 7, 2017 letter to Whatcom County Planning and Development Services, withdrawing its three permit applications (two in 2011, and one in 2012) submitted for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal project at Cherry Point.

Whatcom County Planning and Development Services (PDS) sent a February 8, 2017 email response to PIH/PIT, acknowledging receipt of the company’s February 7th letter in which it notified the County that it was withdrawing its three permit applications for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal project.

In its February 8th email, Whatcom County PDS let PIH/PIT know the County would be canceling the pre-hearing conference with the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner and notifying the public and other interested parties of the permit withdrawals. 

February 1, 2017

by Sandy Robson

Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) proponent Pacific International Holdings (PIH) is still at it, trying to bluster and bully Whatcom County into doing their bidding. It seems PIH, formerly known as Pacific International Terminals (PIT), a subsidiary of SSA Marine, wants the County to politely stand by until PIH decides if and how its company would like to force through a project, the construction of which according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, would violate Lummi Nation’s Usual & Accustomed treaty fishing rights. (more…)

Whatcom County Executive Office misconstrued coal port EIS contract intent in presentation to County Council

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Whatcom County Council members at the September 13, 2016, evening Whatcom County Council meeting in Bellingham, WA

by Sandy Robson

Most of the public attending the September 13, 2016 Whatcom County Council Finance and Administrative Services Committee meeting, and the Council members themselves, appeared to buy the story being sold to them that day by Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws and his Deputy Executive Tyler Schroeder, about the then-proposed Contract Amendment No. 5.1 that would extend the suspension of the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the coal export terminal project at Cherry Point, Washington. (more…)

Searching for traces of coal: major energy industry law firm sends two letters to Whatcom County

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Click on the graphic to access a PDF copy of the September 27, 2016, three-page letter sent to Whatcom County Deputy Prosecutor Karen Frakes from Attorney Erin Anderson, of Stoel Rives LLP, on behalf of the Whatcom Business Alliance

October 1, 2016

by Sandy Robson

At the September 27, 2016 Whatcom County Council meeting about 70 people testified during the Public Hearing for the ordinance imposing an interim moratorium (6 months) on the acceptance and processing of applications and permits for new or expanded facilities that would facilitate the increased shipment of unrefined fossil fuels out of Cherry Point. (more…)

GPT legal threats foster bottleneck of government-to-government relationship with Lummi Nation

July 26, 2016  Dena Jensen

Guess, what?  The processing of the GPT permit by Whatcom County has led, not only to a choking of due process for the public regarding Comprehensive Plan update issues that pertain to Cherry Point Industry, but also to a formidable restriction of the government-to-government relationship between Lummi Nation and our county government in matters involving Cherry Point. (more…)

“SSA Marine’s actions defined the project as a coal terminal.”

Facebook post sharing a letter to the editor by Sandy Robson, published in the Wall Street Journal on June 12, 2016

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A Letter of Gratitude to the Lummi Nation

Letter by Dena Jensen

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On May 12, 2016 this letter was sent to Lummi Nation and to the individuals mentioned by name in the letter:

Dear People of the Lummi Nation:

It was probably about two years ago that I was fortunate to first attend a presentation by members of the Lummi Nation at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship. These tribal members, Jewell James and Jay Julius among them, shared information about your cultural heritage, and your connection and sacred responsibility to Xwe’chi’eXen.  I remember being welcomed and empowered by the kind and compelling words of the speakers.  We were asked to bear witness to past struggles and tragedy that the Lummi people have suffered, and the perseverance and bold efforts that propel you forward in your sacred responsibilities to protect your culture, language, way of life, lands, and waters for the benefit of many future generations. (more…)

Gateway Pacific Terminal: Unraveling the mystery of Peabody’s relationship with SSA Marine

Peabody cloud 600 revised

by Sandy Robson

News that Peabody Energy, the world’s largest publicly owned coal producer, had filed for bankruptcy protection, broke nationwide on April 13, 2016.

That news was of particular interest in Bellingham, Washington, because the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT), a 48 million metric ton per year coal export facility, is proposed for Cherry Point, in Whatcom County, and Peabody, in 2011, had reportedly agreed to be the first customer, looking to ship its Powder River Basin coal to Asia through the terminal. The GPT applicant, Pacific International Terminals (PIT), is a subsidiary created for the GPT project by SSA Marine, the world’s largest independent, privately-held marine terminal operator. (more…)

Press Release: Whatcom County Citizen calls for House Committee on Ethics Investigation into Congressman Ryan Zinke

March 16, 2016 | Press Release, Coal Stop
Whatcom County Citizen calls for House Committee on Ethics Investigation into Congressman Ryan Zinke 

(Bellingham, WA) March 16, 2016 – Today, Blaine, Washington resident Sandy Robson, sent a certified letter to thezinke official photo United States House Committee on Ethics, calling upon the committee to open an investigation into Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT), for potentially violating the United States House of Representatives Code of Official Conduct.

News media in Billings, Montana and Bellingham, Washington, reported that Congressman Zinke had sent a March 15, 2016 letter to Glenn Fine, the Acting Inspector General at the Department of Defense (DoD), asking for an official DoD investigation into Colonel John G. Buck, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Seattle District, relating to his responsibilities on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT).

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Forwarding racism: The Northwest Jobs Alliance

March 3, 2016  by Dena Jensen

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This is one of those stories that gradually unfolds to its stomach-turning conclusion. I will be walking you through it step by step, so bear with me.

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Members of Congress seek to undermine Lummi Nation’s request to the Army Corps for immediate GPT permit denial

Totem Pole at northern plains

The 22-foot western cedar totem pole, which features animals and symbols important to the Northern Cheyenne people was created by Master Carver and Lummi Elder Jewell James and the House of Tears carvers, of the Lummi Nation. The totem pole is a gift from the Lummi Nation to members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in southeast Montana as a symbol of solidarity between two tribes whose homelands are threatened by proposed coal export projects. A dedication ceremony for the totem pole was held on January 22, 2016, outside the Northern Plains Resource Council building in Billings, Montana, where the totem pole will stand until a more permanent home is found on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Photo courtesy of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

by Sandy Robson

Author’s note:  Today, one hundred and sixty-one years ago, the Treaty of Point Elliott was signed on January 22, 1855, by Isaac Stevens, then-Governor of Washington Territory, and by Duwamish Chief Seattle, Lummi Chief Chow-its-hoot, Snoqualmie Chief Patkanim, and other chiefs, subchiefs, and delegates of tribes, bands, and villages. 

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Elliott Treaty monument in Mukilteo, WA

In my endeavor to honor today’s 161st anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Point Elliott, this piece brings attention to the disturbing fact that, presently, certain members of Congress are dishonoring that very same treaty as they seek to undermine it. 

Treaty rights of the Lummi people are secured to them by the U.S. federal government in the Treaty of Point Elliott. Specific to treaty fishing rights, is Article 5 of the Treaty provides that, “The right of taking fish from usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory. . .” (more…)

The Ugly Underbelly of Corporations’ Pursuit of a Coal Terminal

by Sandy Robson

The Lynden Tribune newspaper made the decision to publish a December 23, 2015 opinion piece submitted by Chair John Huntley and President Brad Owens of the Northwest Jobs Alliance (NWJA). The NWJA advocates for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project. Their op-ed leveled unsubstantiated, defamatory allegations at unnamed “leadership” of the Lummi Nation, a self-governing Indian Nation, and those allegations could easily be perceived as having been leveled at Lummi Nation as a whole. (more…)

What Do Coal Port Interests’ Clear Choices Mean?

by Sandy Robson

News broke this past weekend in Whatcom County about a last minute coal terminal-funded PAC, formed by Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) applicant Pacific International Terminals LLC, to support Charter Review Commission-generated Props 1, 2, and 3, and to oppose citizen-proposed Prop 9, placed on the November election ballot, via ordinance, by the Whatcom County Council. The PAC is named Clear Ballot Choices (Pacific International Terminals, LLC). (more…)

Not Jensen: A good reason to vote for newcomer Bobby Briscoe for Port of Bellingham Commissioner

thanks to our supporters gptOctober 12, 2015  Dena Jensen

My opinion: Port of Bellingham Commissioner candidate Gary Jensen has proven he cannot be trusted to take care of the health and well-being of our region with integrity.  Vote for Bobby Briscoe to give him a chance to prove he can.

To help out you voters who may be undecided on which candidate for Port of Bellingham Commissioner to cast your vote for, I would like to assist your candidate research by offering a page full of Coal Stop articles related to the Gateway Pacific Terminal that I feel reflect quite poorly on the record of candidate for Port of Bellingham Commissioner and current Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen.  Click the link to go to a list of articles where Gary Jensen and the toxic-product path of the proposed 48 million ton coal terminal intersect: https://coalstop.com/tag/gary-jensen/

Coal’s dark alliance defames Lummi Nation: Native American treaty rights under attack

by Sandy Robson

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Brad Owens speaking at the June 22, 2015 NWJA-sponsored event, “Rebuilding the Middle Class: Working Families and Wages in Northwest Washington and the State,” in Bellingham, WA.

On her September 12, 2015 program, Whatcom Tea Party board member and host for the weekly “Saturday Morning Live” (SML) talk radio show on KGMI, Kris Halterman, interviewed Northwest Jobs Alliance (NWJA) President Brad Owens. Halterman’s program afforded Owens a platform to promote the same idea that NWJA previously purported in its August 20, 2015 letter to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). That idea advanced by NWJA in the letter, is that there is “an apparent motive behind the Lummi Nation’s opposition to the Gateway Pacific Terminal project (and completion of the EIS process) not connected with treaty rights.” [italicized emphasis theirs] (more…)

Creating something out of nothing: Craig Cole and the Northwest Jobs Alliance

by Dena Jensen

I have been re-reading this September 11, 2015 article in The Bellingham Herald, “Lummi tribe says talk of Cherry Point land grab is a fabrication,” about the recent (and to me, thoroughly sickening) actions of the Northwest Jobs Alliance (NWJA) which is an advocacy group for the proposed 48 million ton Gateway Pacific coal terminal (GPT) at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point). (more…)