Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Army Corps sides with Native Americans in Wash., denies permit for nation's largest coal port

North America's largest proposed coal port has been blocked. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency reviewing permits for the deep water port project," agreed with the Lummi Nation on Monday that it could not grant a permit for a project that would infringe on the tribe’s treaty-protected fishing rights, Lynda Mapes reports for The Seattle Times. "The terminal would have brought some of the largest ships afloat into the usual and accustomed fishing waters of the Lummi up to 487 times a year to load and unload bulk commodities, principally coal, bound for Asian ports."

The proposed port had led to heated debates in Whatcom County, Washington, for years. Samantha Wohlfeil reports for The Bellingham Herald. Supporters said it would bring much-needed jobs, while critics said it would lead to increased train traffic and pollution. "Those backing the project have a few options to possibly revive it. SSA Marine, the developer of the project, can change the project so it doesn’t significantly impact treaty rights, reach an agreement with Lummi Nation so the tribe withdraws its objection or sue in federal court." (Proposed terminal)
Bob Watters, senior vice president of SSA Marine, said of the ruling: “This is an inconceivable decision. Looking at the set of facts in the administrative summary it’s quite obvious this is a political decision and not fact-based. We are very disappointed that the GPT project has become a political target rather than being addressed on the facts. The terminal promises to deliver substantial benefits through economic development, the creation of family-wage jobs, and the generation of significant taxes.”

Legal experts said the decision "followed federal obligation to protect tribal treaty rights and the habitat that makes those reserve rights meaningful," Mapes writes. Robert Anderson, director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington School of Law, told her, “This is based on a long line of precedent. You can’t have a right to fish without a decent environment.”

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