Cherry Point coal port development put on ice

Work on EIS put on hold as coal companies wait for Army Corps of Engineers decision. Well, it was not in March. This is not an April 1 gag.

Work on EIS put on hold as coal companies wait for Army Corps of Engineers decision. Well, it was not in March. This is not an April 1 gag.


The Seattle Times is reporting a decision by Cloud Peak Energy and SSA Marine to pause work on the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Cherry Point coal terminal.  The reason cited is that the companies are waiting for an Army Corps decision on whether to allow or deny permission to build.  The Corps is considering the concerns of the Lummi Nation.

Efforts today to reach media representatives for both companies have not yet received a response.  The Seattle Times article has the most information on this. 

As NWCitizen reported last week, the Army Corps was expected to announce at the end of March that the permit would be denied.  A frantic and panic stricken letter to the U.S. Department of Defense by U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke, the only Representative from Montana, is a possible the reason the Corps held off their announcement.  The following day the Bellingham Herald ran a headline countering the NWCitizen story (without naming NWCitizen) saying there would be no decision in March.  Fine; today is not March.  It is April 1 - and it sounds like the coal proponents are saying something like, "You can't fire me; I quit."  No doubt there was communication over the past few days between the proponents and the Corps.

I think it safe to suggest the coal port is a dead deal - just like Peter Kiewit and Chicago Bridge and Iron in past decades were far-fetched corporate efforts to expoit and wreck Cherry Point.  It is time for our county to evaluate possible good uses of that area.  And the agency that should do that is the Port of Bellingham.  More on this another time. 

This project is a bust for several reasons: the dramatic decline in the coal industry, the efforts of the environmental movement, and China's attempts to decrease their air pollution.  It is a good spring day for Whatcom County.  

More info will be added if/when the media reps at either company get back to me. 

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Bob Aegerter

Apr 01, 2016

A lot of questions to be answered in the next few days.  Will want to hear a response frome the Lummi Nation first.

Stopping and then starting again a project EIS this large is expensive.  Very unlikely.

Could lead to bankruptcy for one or two Powder River Basin coal companies - or maybe they are already in planning but not announced.


David Camp

Apr 02, 2016

The way they’re framing it they are blaming the Lummi - those dastardly obstructionist job-killers - and setting up a divide-and-rule enmity locally. Instead of being honest about the reasons (low coal prices; near-bankruptcy of the proponents), they instead choose to create political conflict. Nice guys.

Anyway, good on the Lummi Nation for taking a stand. We can’t rely on our bought-and-paid-for “representatives” who follow whatever party line the highest bidder buys.


Tip Johnson

Apr 02, 2016

Who will Mexican strongman Fernando Chico Pardo, with his 49% share, blame?  What about the widows and orphans dependent on the hedge funds SSA wooed? 

I started viewing this project as an investment scam when I read Dave Gambrel, former Director of Transportation for Peabody Coal, in the June 2013 issue of Coal Age magazine say,

“…the most direct route (to potential Washington State terminals) may not be adequate for heavy coal trains.  In fact, it may not be possible to make it adequate because of its 2.2% grade and dangerous location, even in BNSF should decide to rebuild it.”  and “PRB coal producers are not idly hoping the proposed Cherry Point…terminals will happen… They have taken backstop positions at other coal terminals…” and “The advantage offered by (other) terminals is that they are remote from population centers, have large available stockpile areas, can handle multiple unit trains without blocking highways, can unload trains quickly and are served by both railroads.” and “The distance from Bellingham to Mundra (India) is 9,800 nautical miles (400 more than from New Orleans, through the Suez Canal).  In other words, New Orleans can compete with the Pacific Northwest for steam coal headed to northwest India, where large amounts of steam coal are required.”

But there is a better reason to continue opposing this project - Jobs, food security and the health of our orca population.  The issuance of industrial permits at Cherry Point effectively wiped out more that 60% of the entire herring production in Washington State waters of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.  That’s an enormous corporate takings that requires compensation.  More importantly, it requires the attention and resources to identify and mitigate the causes, and the political will to restore this important resource - before permitting additional pollution.

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