NW Coal Ports: Voice your concerns, voice them loud!

by: Posted on: November 17, 2012

Photo: Rae Louise Breaux, Cherry Point

Editor’s Note: This piece was written by a representative of our engaged and concerned youth (Olivia Edwards). Olivia illuminates one outlet for energy focused at stopping the Gateway Pacific Terminal—working within the regulatory system. We as citizens have the power to request what will be included in the permit and Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposal.

Olivia Edwards is a senior at Western Washington University studying Environmental Science.  Born in Boise, ID and raised in Pocatello, ID she is constantly amazed by the lush terrestrial, marine, and freshwater environments of the Pacific Northwest.  A self-proclaimed fish, macroinvertebrate, water quality nerd, she likes to think of life as a river. She loves learning about freshwater-terrestrial connections and will graduate from Huxley College of the Environment in Spring 2013.


The proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) at Cherry Point is a hot topic of debate and conversation around the Pacific Northwest. The project would be a deep-water marine terminal, proposed by SSA Marine, The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Peabody Coal. The terminal would handle up to 54 million dry metric tons of bulk commodities per year. The majority of these commodities would be coal brought in by rail from mines in Wyoming and Montana and then exported to China via cargo ships. If the project goes through, GPT will become the largest coal export terminal in North America. On campuses, in homes and on the streets, people are talking about the pros and cons of the GPT and asking questions. Good news folks: The controversial project is now in the “Scoping Period.” This means several great things for you as a voter and a citizen of this earth.

According to the Council on Environmental Quality, “scoping is the gathering and analysis of information that a state agency will use to establish the breadth, or scope, of environmental review of a proposed project.” This means that this is YOUR time to tell the permitting agencies and subsequently the companies proposing the project what areas you think, from a personal, scientific, health, or economic perspective, should be included in the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment.

For example, if you are concerned about climate change, you might request that they consider carbon budgets and coal combustion. Or if you are concerned about mining in Wyoming and Montana, you might ask them to consider the effects of coal mining in their final assessment. If your primary concern is here, in western Washington, you could ask that the assessment include possible impacts to marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments along the train route and surrounding terminal site. The possibilities are endless and you can ask for as much or as little as you think is important, but it is best to do your research on the project and make informed, concise requests backed by facts.

The public comment period started on Monday September 24, 2012 and runs until January 21, 2013. You can attend public hearings and verbalize your requests and concerns at various locations and days over the next four months, write a letter, or type a simple email to make your voice heard.

For dates and times of these hearings visit:

GPT EIS Homepage: http://www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/

Send written comments to:

Mr. Randel Perry, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District
Care of: GPT/BNSF Custer Spur EIS Co-Lead Agencies,
1100 112th Avenue Northeast, Suite 400
Bellevue, Washington 98004

Or email your words to: comments@eisgatewaypacificwa.gov

I encourage you to take this opportunity to make your concerns, ideas, and questions heard so you can find the facts you deserve to know regarding the terminal! The democratic system only works if the citizens directly participate. So write, type, think, ask questions, and speak.

Additional links to facts and information on scoping and the terminal:

Daily Kos, general coal facts: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/02/1088274/-101-Reasons-to-be-Concerned-About-Coal-Export

Locally managed site of coal train facts: http://www.coaltrainfacts.org

Official notice of scoping period: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/09/21/2012-23301/notice-of-intent-to-prepare-a-joint-environmental-impact-statement-eis-for-the-gateway-pacific#addresses

Council on Environmental Quality: http://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=987&Q=249036

GPT EIS Homepage: http://www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/

If you feel strongly about the proposed terminal, you can also volunteer to do outreach and get others to join in the public comment process at the powerpastcoal.org headquarters next to Film is Truth on Holly Street. Contact Matt Petryini for volunteer information at: mattp@re-sources.org


P.S. from the Editor:

For information on what Bellingham is doing to assert its right to decide on these types of issues, and why people are working on a right-based approach, explore http://coal-free-bellingham.org/why/

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