Friday, August 26, 2011


The whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Aristotle, Metaphysica

Well, we can all stop worrying about a coal terminal. All that is proposed for Cherry Point is a “terrestrial geotechnical evaluation.” Whew.

How do I know? Because Whatcom County has posted the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Checklist,” showing the scope of the impacts proposed for review by the County and State before they issue (retroactive) permits for the illegal work that has already been done on the site.

The Checklist is limited to the geotechnical analysis, which means that the applicant only wants the agencies to evaluate the impacts of that small part of the project. And, if the project proponent were planning to continue with the rest of the project, this would be called “piecemealing.”

Piecemeal environmental review is the oldest trick in the book. One small permit won’t have major impacts – let’s just look at those impacts! Then the next small permit won’t have much impact either – let’s just look at the impacts of that permit!

Over time, though, OOPS. You wind up with, say, a coal terminal, and the public and the agencies have never looked at the impacts of the project as a whole.

With the wisdom of Aristototle, the State Department of Ecology has correctly observed:

The applicant is attempting to separate the 9.1 acres of the geotechnical investigation portion of the greater “Gateway Pacific Terminal” project from the actual 1,090-acre terminal project itself.

Both phases of this project are combined under a common plan of development and must be included in full in their NOI [Notice of Intent] as well as in their public notices.. .

In short, because the SEPA has not yet started (apparently they will be doing an EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] for the terminal), ECY [Ecology] will not be able to consider an NOI complete nor issue CSWGP [Construction Stormwater General Permit] coverage for the project at this time. We will not separate the two projects (common plan).

That’s right. The applicant has lawyers who must know that’s right. The geotechnical investigation is the first stage of a single big project, and SEPA requires environmental review of the “common plan.”

Therefore, there must not be any plans to build a coal terminal any more, because surely the project proponent wouldn’t be rewarded for illegal activity on the site by being allowed to cheat on the environmental review.

Simple logic.


  1. Well, dear friend, now that you have mastered the intricacies of Aristotelian logic, there will, most certainly, be a place opening for you in the McEachran Academy.

  2. Literally, death by a thousand pin-pricks is the cumulative result of such logic. And, it happens often, even if no major overall development plan exists. Take a look at the Lake Whatcom Reservoir for example. Wimpy, myoscopic, elected officials may actually prefer this limited style over bold, broader, farther-sighted scope approaches. After all, it seems less work, less politically risky and controversial, at least in the short term. Kicking the can down the road is a really effective way of dodging responsibility, ensuring higher costs, more degradation and making sure the buck stops somewhere else at a later time.
    It would be nice if more citizens -voters- would recognize it is way past time to demand much more from their elected officials and not accept such Kremenal behavior

  3. Jean,

    Something to consider regarding the "piecemealing" you base your thoughts on.

    The following is from the Comprehensive Plan you voted to bring forward in 2009:

    "In addition to existing industry, the planning and permitting for a new 1,100 acre bulk commodities shipping port in the Cherry Point UGA is nearly complete."

    If this testing was for that 1,100 acres of nearly complete planning and permitting then it is a different matter from testing done for a new project.

  4. Jack,

    This issue has been addressed already. Please read this:\

    and this:

    The bottom line is that none of the clearing took place in the area where specified and limited geotechnical testing was authorized in connection with the 1997 permit. Nobody -- not even the project proponent -- is claiming any more that the testing was authorized by the 1997 permit.

  5. ooooooooh!

    Don't you think you're a little "terse"?

    How do you expect to gain the support of a "moderate" like Jack if you don't act like a lady!

  6. Mr. g.h., Most Kindly and Exalted Sir (is that a ladylike form of address?),

    I did say "please."

  7. Jean:

    Thank you for all your work on this issue. I really appreciate your diligence and mastery of environmental and planning laws. Please feel free to run for county council (or county executive) again.

  8. I'm late on this one. It is a problem for Project Development Managers. You need good soils data from the site before significant decisions are made. If its all wetland soils and requires excessive piling you might recommend abandoning the development at this site.

    I am opposed to the Coal Terminal. They ought to have gotten permits and taken more care. Their lack of diligence raises serious questions of their competence to execute a significant project. The fine did not fit the crime. It was much too small.

    A common solution is to acknowledge that it is a first step in a larger unspecified project and that the soils data is required to submit an adequate permit application.