Monday, March 5, 2012

Coal Port News: What Didn’t Happen in March 2012

The Department of Ecology issued an official notice of the upcoming March 20, 2012 “pre-scoping” meeting – more on the details in a minute. 

But first, let’s recognize that this “pre-scoping” session is something of an anniversary.  Well, not really an anniversary.  An inverted anniversary, I guess.  Or a non-anniversary.  

Perhaps we could view it as a non-event.

You see, the schedule that the project applicant and all the agencies put together back in November 2010(see pages 108 and 122) showed that the Final Environmental Impact Statement would be completed on March 14, 2012.  That's -- right about now!

And the EIS was supposed to be completed five days before March 19, 2012, when the coal terminal applications are likely to be turned into Whatcom County.

On March 20, there will be a “pre-scoping” session.  “Pre-scoping” means that the Environmental Impact Statement process hasn’t (officially) begun yet – and that’s six days after its projected date of completion.

If time were really telescoped like that, dinosaurs and humans would, in fact, be able to exist at the same time.  (That’s the significance of the picture, by the way.  Along with the fact that I really like dinosaurs.)

Now, we’ll probably hear some grumble-grumble-grumbling  that this delayed process shows that red tape just gets in the way, grumble grumble.   

Red tape like when the County required the coal terminal applications to resemble the current proposal, not the proposal back in the 1990s. 

Red tape like holding up “progress” on the project – when “progress” meant bulldozing roads, destroying archeological midden sites, and filling wetlands without the necessary permits. 

Red tape like the letters pouring in from citizens in Whatcom County and all along the train route, telling the agencies that their lives and their concerns matter, too. 

I think that the original schedule is very telling.  It showed that the agencies themselves weren’t even aware of the magnitude of this project, because nobody would have put together a schedule like that if they had thought the project through. 

And now we have the opportunity to start telling the agencies that they need to think the project through, and what that means to us.  

Here’s the press release for the March 20 “pre-scoping” meeting:

Washington Department of Ecology news



Meeting set to inform public about environmental review process for proposed Cherry Point terminal

       BELLINGHAM – People interested in the upcoming process to review potential environmental impacts from the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal and a related railroad project are invited to an informational meeting.

       Meeting details:

      Project: Proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point, north Puget Sound
      What: Information meeting on environmental review process
      When: 6 – 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, 2012
      Where: Bellingham High School theater, 2020 Cornwall Ave.

       Representatives from Whatcom County and the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) will outline the environmental review process and answer questions about it. A representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) will be on hand to answer questions about the Corps permitting process and federal requirements. 

       Whatcom County, Ecology and the Corps have agreed to coordinate the environmental impact statement (EIS) process under state and federal environmental laws. 

      The purpose of the meeting is to familiarize people with the upcoming environmental review process. Speakers will explain several opportunities people will have to provide formal input at different stages. The first of these will occur in late spring or summer this year.

       An EIS reports on the potential impacts a proposed project would have on the natural and social environment. Once the impacts are identified, it outlines “mitigation,” measures intended to offset impacts. The EIS also evaluates alternatives, and their potential impacts, to the project or portions of it. Agencies that issue permits can use this information to determine whether to approve the project, and if approved, to set conditions to prevent or mitigate impacts. 

       The meeting program will outline the upcoming EIS process, including these key points, with approximate dates:

  Scoping: This summer the agencies will seek public comment, including community meetings, through “scoping,” a process the agencies use to determine which potential environmental impacts the EIS should assess. The co-lead agencies will issue notices for times and locations of scoping meetings.

• Draft EIS: The agencies, aided by their consultant, will research potential impacts, alternatives, and mitigation measures, and present the results of these studies in a draft EIS, expected in 2013.

• Public comment on draft EIS: The agencies will invite the public to review the draft EIS and to make comments. This can include workshops, meetings and hearings to explain the EIS and to receive public comments. This period will most likely occur in late 2013 or in 2014.

• Final EIS: The agencies make changes to the draft EIS based on comments received and issue a final version.

• Permitting: Several local, state and federal agencies will use information from the EIS to help make permit decisions. Each permit has its own process for public review and input before becoming final. If a permit is issued, the issuing agency may use mitigation identified in the EIS to help set special conditions or requirements.

      Pacific International Terminals, a subsidiary of SSA Marine Inc. (SSA), proposes to build and operate the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in north Puget Sound, between Ferndale and Blaine. The terminal would provide storage and handling of exported and imported dry bulk commodities, including coal, grain, iron ore, salts and alumina. BNSF Railway Inc. proposes to add rail facilities and install a second track along the six-mile Custer Spur.

Media Contacts:

        Tyler Schroeder, Whatcom County Planning Supervisor, 360-676-6907, <> 

        Larry Altose, Ecology media relations, 206-920-2600, <> 

        Katie Skipper, Ecology media relations, 360-715-5205, <> 

        Patricia Graesser 206-764-3760, Corps of Engineers media relations, <> 

For more information:

        Ecology's Gateway Pacific Terminal page ( <> ) 

        Whatcom County's Gateway Pacific Terminal page ( <> ) 

        Washington Office of Regulatory Assistance ( <> ) requires registration

        U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District ( <> ) 

 Ecology’s website: <> 

Ecology’s social media: <>


  1. Why, thank you Jean, for this breaking news. I guess March 20th it is.

    Let the subsidy begin (continue)!

    1. Well, heck, we already broke the news, right? The rewards of the nerdy habit of reading primary documents. Something of which you are often guilty yourself, Mr. Stalheim.

  2. Thank you Jean. See you and David at the party on the 20th if not before!

  3. Should we all bring noise makers? Party hats? :)

  4. Jean, the only bone I would pick with you is that I don't think the ridulous initial scheduling was because they weren't thinking, but because, in early 2011, they were thinking if SSA said it, it must be so (sort of the same, but a little different). SSA said (I'm paraphrasing, but only a little), "We don't need no stinking' Shoreline Substantial Development Permit. Got that in '97." And the MAP Team didn't put no stinkin' SSDP on the schedule. SSA said (again, paraphrasing), "All this permit s**t will be over in a matter of months," and the schedule reflected ... a matter of months.

  5. There will be more than one party on March 20th. Get your dancing shoes on 'cause the party is about to start.