Power Past Coal Update

Now deceased Southern Resident J2, AKA Granny, near an oil tanker
Now deceased Southern Resident J2, AKA Granny, near an oil tanker

Public opposition against the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal/Custer Spur (GPT) at Cherry Point in Whatcom County, WA has been remarkable. It appears there are quite a few people who think that strip mining coal in the mid-west, sending it by rail across the country to Oregon and Washington, and shipping it to China is just not a good idea.

More than 9000 people participated during in-person scoping meetings in November and December, 2012; in total, more than 124,000 comments were collected between September 24, 2012 and January 22, 2013. At least 23 city officials, 14 county, 6 federal, 13 state, and 6 tribal agencies commented at great length, many of them demanding an area-wide, comprehensive, or cumulative greenhouse emission review.  A full review of these comments is available at http://www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/resources/scoping-report.

In March, close to 300 people rallied at Westlake in downtown Seattle and marched nearly 4 miles to the port of Seattle and SSA Marine’s office in protest against the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point, sacred Lummi land. Since officially coming out against the proposal, the Lummi nation has been a source of the most outspoken, incisive critiques, comments, and public actions.

Friends of the San Juans formed the Safe Shipping Alliance of the Salish Sea, bringing together over 40 local, State, Federal, Canadian organizations and Tribal Nations to coordinate efforts to minimize the risks from the proposed increases in tanker traffic. This coalition is working together to research potential impacts, review and participate in permit processes including the EIS, and inform the public.

Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County, the Co-Lead Agencies must consider all these comments and determine what to include in the Environmental Impact Study (EIS). Once a draft EIS is published, the public will be invited to review and comment on the document and participate in public meetings.

One piece of Washington senate legislation, SB5805, known as the ‘Pit to Pier’ bill because it hoped to make permitting of mined exports as fast and easy as possible, disappeared after public outcry. The Seattle Times reports that the push to export coal could be the Northwest’s biggest environmental battle in years.

But in Oregon at least, the proposed coal terminal for Coos Bay appears to be scuttled. Japanese-based Mitsui Company and Korean Electric Power Corporation, potential partner investors, lost interest in the project. With significant opposition from community and environmental groups, Metro Ports, the remaining project proponent, decided to allow its lease at the Port of Coos Bay to expire.

The demise of the Coos Bay project demonstrates how grass roots movements and public action can make a difference. We urge you to let your legislators know you are opposed to the proposed terminals. Stay informed by checking www.PowerPastCoal.org.