Coal Train, Part 2: An insider’s guide to the coal port’s environmental review

Crosscut| News of the Great Nearby, January 23, 2013
By Floyd McKay

Different agencies, different laws and lots of science and partisan passion will collide before we know the fate of Gateway Pacific.

This is the second in a three-part series.

When President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) into law in 1970 — a law sponsored by former Washington Sen. Henry (Scoop) Jackson — neither man could have imagined what a complex and controversial law they had created. For developers, NEPA became a swear word, for environmentalists a tool to be sharpened and wielded. States would go on to create their own State Environmental Policy Acts (SEPA), and Washington’s is now very much in the spotlight. Together, SEPA and NEPA will determine the fate of what could become the nation’s largest coal-export terminal.

 Courtesy of Paul K. Anderson/Chuckanut ConservancyA train runs along Bellingham Bay

Courtesy of Paul K. Anderson/Chuckanut Conservancy
A train runs along Bellingham Bay

That would be Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) north of Bellingham at Cherry Point on the Strait of Georgia. The project developer, SSA Marine of Seattle, plans a $664 million facility capable of handling up to 54 million tons a year of bulk commodities; 48 million of those tons will be coal. When SSA Marine applied for a permit to build the terminal in March 2012 it triggered a process that will play out for years, engage a complex web of public agencies and generate a compendium of scientific studies and permits and the almost inevitable legal challenges.

There is no telling at this early stage whether SSA Marine will be successful in its efforts to build a coal terminal at Cherry Point. Part Two of our Coal Train series will attempt to lay out the arduous process that is already underway as we move, slowly, towards a final decision.

Read more…

About coalfreegorge

Coal is rearing its head again the Columbia Gorge. The new threat comes in the form of proposals to export coal from Wyoming to coal-fired power plants in China. The coal would be transported via uncovered rail cars through the Columbia Gorge. Many Columbia Gorge Communities in Oregon and Washington support a coal-free world, beginning at home, in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, recognizing the importance of people determining what materials are allowable for transport through their communities and watersheds. This blog exists to communicate and advocate for the public interest in issues pertaining to coal transport in the Columbia River Gorge, providing an online outlet for honest discussion and information. To inform and unite local citizens about the damaging effects of coal transport through our communities. To endorse positive and considerate dialogue with the aim of mutual understanding among diverse parties. CLEAN AIR HEALTHY COMMUNITIES NO COAL EXPORTS STOP COAL IN ITS TRACKS
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