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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Army Corps of Engineers denies petition for Gateway Pacific coal terminal

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has rejected Pacific International Holdings LLC's  application to build a proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County, Wash.

The proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal would have been served by BNSF Railway Co. and located about 100 miles north of Seattle.

Seattle District Commander Col. John Buck determined that the terminal would hurt the Lummi Nation's treaty fishing rights, according to an Army Corps' press release issued Monday.

"I have thoroughly reviewed thousands of pages of submittals from the Lummi Nation and Pacific International Holdings," said Buck. "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."

The $700 million terminal project has been opposed by environmental groups as well as the Lummi Nation.

"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," said Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council. "This decision is a win for the treaty and protects our sacred site."

The company expressed disappointment in the decision.

"Looking at the set of facts in the administrative summary, it's quite obvious this is a political decision and not fact-based," said Bob Watters, president of Pacific International Terminals, a unit of Pacific International Holdings.

U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) also decried the decision, citing it as a method of interfering with a private company's efforts to state its case for the terminal through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

"Upholding treaty rights is just as imperative as providing due process, but for the [Obama] administration, NEPA has become a process of convenience," said Bishop in a prepared statement. "Americans deserve a fair and transparent legal system, not a government that uses everything in their arsenal to suffocate the American coal industry."­­

As part of the project, BNSF proposed adding rail facilities next to the terminal site and installing a second track along the 6-mile Custer spur, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology, which also is studying the proposed project.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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