U.S. SENATE— U.S. Senator Steve Daines today issued the following statement after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) released their unprecedented de minimis determination halting the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) infrastructure project based on the Lummi Tribe’s assertion that the project will impact their usual and accustomed fishing rights.
This is the first time ACE has given a single tribe veto-authority of a project of this scale under their purview without a full environmental review with alternatives and mitigations formally explored.
“Today the U.S. Army Corps chose one tribe’s treaty rights over another harming good-paying union and tribal jobs,” Daines stated. “The Gateway Pacific Terminal would provide access to international markets for Montana coal and agriculture products – including Crow coal – creating much needed economic prosperity. Once again, the federal government is trampling on Montanans’ livelihoods and I will fight tooth and nail to ensure Montanans have a voice in Montana’s future.”
“I am deeply disappointed that the Army Corps of Engineers disregarded the treaty rights and the trust resources of the Crow Tribe and refused to engage in meaningful consultation with us on the Gateway Pacific Terminal Project,” Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote stated. “I am equally disappointed that the United States took the unprecedented step of preemptively blocking the coal terminal without preparing an EIS, which is required by law, is the standard process for considering usual and accustomed treaty fishing rights and which would have provided the Crow Tribe and the public with an opportunity to comment on the project.”
“We are very disappointed with the Army Corps’ decision today. Supporters worked relentlessly to help stand up to the anti-fossil fuel groups seeking to deny GPT a fair, timely permitting review,” said Colin Marshall, Cloud Peak Energy President and CEO. “GPT has been subjected to an unprecedented parallel process imposed by the Corps that served to pick winners and losers among Native American Tribes with differing interests in the project. We are working closely with our partners, SSA Marine and the Crow Tribe, as well as other stakeholders to review our options in light of the Corps’ decision.”
“This is an inconceivable decision. Looking at the set of facts in the administrative summary it’s quite obvious this is a political decision and not fact based,” explained Bob Watters, President, Pacific International Terminal, LLC. Watters goes on, “Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife conduct aerial observations during fish openings and for the 13-year period from 2002 – 2014 only sighted 4 fishing boats within one half mile of the proposed pier location and only 11 fishing boats from one half mile to one full mile from the proposed location. On average that’s only 1.15 boats per year. If that isn’t less than de minimis I don’t know what is.”
The Gateway Pacific Terminal is a proposed deep-water port in Washington State, just north of Seattle, that would create a port for Montana exporters to access markets in the Pacific Rim via a rail line.
On April 1, the stakeholders paused the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for a minimum of 45 days after increased speculation that the ACE was going to issue a de minimis determination prior to completion of the draft EIS, which is a completely unprecedented path.
The Crow Tribe has the option to secure 5 percent ownership in the Terminal from Cloud Peak Energy. Cloud Peak Energy will own 49 percent while SSA Marine will own 51 percent of the company’s shares.
The project is expected to create more than 4,000 jobs and has a diverse coalition of support from groups including the Crow Nation, local labor unions, business organizations, the agriculture industry, and local governments. Dozens of letters from various groups were submitted in favor of the project and can be found here.