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Last update: 2015-11-01 14:53:10
Amanda Starbuck, Senior Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network
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The Gateway Pacific Terminal, expected to cost USD 655 million, is a proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point, near Bellingham, Washington. If completed, the terminal would have capacity to export 54 million tons of coal annually.
The project is an export-import facility on 1,092 acres in Whatcom County, Washington. This project is organized by SSA Marine, the Northwest Company and will include shipping, stevedoring, and warehousing facilities. The Gateway is expected to act as a portal for the export of various commodities, including coal, to Asian markets. It is located at Cherry Point, 17 miles south of the Canadian border with naturally deep water to accommodate the large transnational transporting ships.
The environmental review process for the Gateway Pacific Terminal began on February 28, 2011 when SSA Marine applied for state and federal permits for the USD 500 million terminal. If approved, the terminal would begin construction in early 2013 and operations in 2015.
On March 1, 2011, SSA Marine announced it had entered into an agreement with Peabody Energy to export up to 24 million metric tons of coal per year through the Gateway Pacific Terminal. The development of this terminal would allow Peabody Energy to export coal mined in Montana and Wyoming's Powder River Basin to Asian markets.
Trains delivering coal to the terminal in Cherry Point would travel through cities and towns and would cause traffic disruptions, public spending on safety improvements, lost property values, disruption of business activity and pollution from both coal dust and diesel locomotive exhaust. At full capacity, the terminal could draw as many as nine loaded trains per day through Bellingham, Washington - and they would head back through the city after unloading.
Demand for coal in the United States is falling and US coal mining companies are responding by finding markets for coal overseas. Exporting US coal to foreign markets essentially exports global warming emissions instead of keeping carbon-intensive coal in the ground
Army Corps halts Gateway Pacific Terminal permitting process
Justice prevailed for the Lummi Nation, the Indigenous community who are closest to the place where Peabody Coal and SSA Marine wanted to put North America's largest new coal export terminal. This place is called Xwe'chi'eXen, also known as Cherry Point, in the state of Washington. After five years of grassroots opposition to this project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of the regulatory bodies with decision-making power, announced a decision to deny permits for the Gateway Pacific Terminals proposal at Cherry Point. This decision was made at the request of the Lummi Nation for the Army Corps to uphold the US Federal Government's treaty obligations to the Lummi Nation. This project's impacts would cause significant harm to their treaty protected fishing rights. The agency decision can be found here.
Crow Tribe and Cloud Peak Energy are joining SSA Marine
SSA Marine, the Crow Tribe of Indians and Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE:
CLD) announced that the Crow Tribe and Cloud Peak Energy are
joining SSA Marine as partners in the Gateway Pacific Terminal, located
in the Northwest corner of Washington state.
Goldman Sachs sells coal terminal investment
Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners sold off its remaining equity investment in Carrix, the parent company of Pacific International Terminals and SSA Marine that are behind a colossal coal export terminal proposal near Bellingham, Washington. The move comes after coal companies and their proponents have tabled or dropped three out of six proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest in the last two years. Read more.
In the summer of 2013, Goldman Sachs’s research arm released a report titled “The Window for Thermal Coal Investment Is Closing,” forecasting that China’s demand for coal will peak within the next few years as the country’s growth rate slows and environmental regulations are increased. This means the high international coal prices that coal export proposals in the United States would be dependent on are extremely unlikely to materialize. With the bank’s own researchers casting doubt on the long-term viability of coal exports and the project facing sustained local opposition, Goldman Sachs may have wisely concluded that the time was right to get out of the business of coal exports.
Notification of state law violation
The Washington Department of Ecology notified Pacific International Terminals Inc. that it violated state law at the site of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal near Cherry Point in Whatcom County when it cleared land and built roads without a state stormwater permit for construction sites. Pacific international was directed to submit the required applications by Aug 15, 2011. The Department of Ecology is also currently investigating whether the work at the site violated wetland-protection requirements. Construction projects larger than one acre must have coverage under Ecology's Construction Stormwater General Permit. The road-building so far covers nine acres.
If SSA Marine's permits that were filed in February 2011 are approved by state and federal regulators, SSA Marine will next be required to obtain a lease from the Washington Department of Natural Resources.