A decision Monday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could spell the end to a controversial coal export terminal proposed near Ferndale, Washington.
Colonel John Buck, commander of the Army Corp’s Seattle District, announced the decision at a meeting with Lummi Tribal leaders, saying the Gateway Pacific project would impact “treaty protected fishing rights” of Washington’s Lummi Nation,.
The $700 million dollar Gateway Pacific Terminal was a proposed deep-water port to be located just north of Seattle.
The project was backed by shipping company SSA Marine, along with its partners Cloud Peak Energy and Montana’s Crow Indian Tribe, who touted the terminal as a new port providing access to Pacific Rim coal markets via rail.
Lummi tribal members called the ruling ” a historic decision for treaty rights”.
“The impact of a coal terminal on our treaty fishing rights would be severe, irreparable and impossible to mitigate.” said Lummi Tribal Chairman Tim Ballew.
At the same time, the decision was scorned by backers of the project who claim the Corps had catered to special interests.
Montana Sen. Steve Daines called the decision “unprecedented”.
“The Corps chose one tribe’s treaty rights over another, harming good-paying union and tribal jobs,” said Daines.
“Once again, the federal government is trampling on Montanan’s livelihoods,” Daines said..
But Northern Plains Resource Council member Alaina Buffalo Spirit called this a “great day for Indian Country”.
“Today the U.S. government honored Indian treaty rights over coal company profits,” said Buffalo Spirit.
Cloud Peak Energy President and CEO Colin Marshall added his voice to those disappointed by the Corps decision.
“Supporters of this project worked relentlessly to stand up to the anti-fossil fuel groups seeking to deny the project a fair, timely permitting review.,” said Marshall.
Marshall added that Cloud Peak is working closely with its partners, SSA Marine and the Crow Tribe to review their options in light of the Corps decision.
Montana Congressman Ryan ZInke joined in criticizing the decision.
“To kill a project before an Environmental Impact Study is completed sets a terrible precedent,” said Rep. Zinke.
“It’s a sad day when even our Army Corps of Engineers can be wooed by special interests,” Zinke said.