SEATTLE (CN) — The Army Corps of Engineers on Monday denied a permit for a proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, Wash. that was to be the largest such facility in the country.
The Lummi Nation said the massive terminal would impair their treaty fishing rights. After months of study, the Corps on Engineers agreed with the tribe.
“I have thoroughly reviewed thousands of pages of submittals from the Lummi Nation and Pacific International Holdings,” Seattle District Commander Col. John Buck said in a statement.
“I have also reviewed my staff’s determination that the Gateway Pacific Terminal would have a greater than de minimis impact on the Lummi Nation’s U&A [usual and accustomed] rights, and I have determined the project is not permittable as currently proposed.”
Pacific International proposed the project to export coal to Asia. Falling prices and lack of demand in North America have made exporting coal more attractive.
Two major potential coal suppliers, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, filed for bankruptcy this year.
The plans called for numerous docks that would have blocked access to water and interfered with the Lummi Nation’s access to fishing areas.
Up to 18 coal trains a day would have traveled through the region to supply the terminal.
The Lummi praised the decision.
“This is a historic victory for treaty rights and the constitution. It is a historic victory for the Lummi Nation and our entire region. We are pleased to see that the Corps has honored the treaty and the constitution by providing a decision that recognizes the terminal’s impacts to our fishing rights. This decision is a win for the treaty and protects our sacred site. Our ancient ones at Xwe’chieXen, Cherry Point, will rest protected,” the tribe said in a statement.
Pacific International called it a political decision.
“Looking at the set of facts in the administrative summary, it’s quite obvious this is a political decision and not fact-based,” Pacific International Terminals president Bob Watters said in a statement.
The 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot granted land fishing rights in perpetuity to the Lummi, Swinomish, Tulalip and Suquamish tribes. Pacific International’s proposed terminal was in their usual and accustomed fishing areas. Their combined population today is about 17,000 people.
“Col. Buck denied this project without prejudice,” the Corps of Engineers said in a statement. “If in the future the Lummi Nation withdraws its objections to the proposal, the proponent could reinitiate processing of the application. A number of other tribes have expressed concern about effects of the proposal on their treaty rights, so if processing of the application resumes, consultation with those tribes would occur as needed to collect information and make decisions with respect to effects of the proposal on their rights.”
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