Pacific International Terminals
Pacific Internal Terminals is a subsidiary set up by SSA Marine, formerly Stevedoring Services of America, which was founded in 1949 and is today one the largest marine operators in the world. When they changed the name in 2003, the created a new company, Carrix, Inc., which is currently the parent company of SSA. They are a $1 billion a year, family owned company with over 10,000 employees and a long history of anti-labor union activity.
Permitting for Gateway Pacific Terminal
The environmental review process for the Gateway Pacific cargo terminal at Cherry Point began officially on Feb. 28, 2011, when SSA Marine submitted preliminary documents on the $500 million project to Whatcom County, state agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The site, between the BP Cherry Point oil refinery and the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter, has been zoned industrial for many years, and land use regulations on the site envision eventual construction of the type of pier that SSA is proposing. Bob Watters, an SSA Marine vice president, said he's confident that the study process won't uncover any environmental issues that are too serious or too costly to overcome, but the project won't have certainty until the study phase is complete in about two years.
In a letter to the Whatcom Council of Governments, Bob Ferris, executive director of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, contended that the terminal's most likely use is for coal exports, and coal trains through the city would mean traffic disruptions, public spending on safety improvements, lost property values, disruption of business activity, and pollution from both coal dust and diesel locomotive exhaust. His letter also notes that Council of Goverments members are likely to face "extreme political pressures" as the process moves ahead.
If the environmental review and permitting process goes through, SSA would then also need to obtain a lease from the Washington Department of Natural Resources, which manages the state's waters, before beginning construction in early 2013 and beginning operations in 2015. At that point, SSA would have a pier capable of handling as many as three large vessels at a time, loading bulk commodities such as coal, potash, calcined petroleum coke and grain for shipment to Asian markets. Watters acknowledged that at full capacity, the terminal could draw as many as nine loaded trains per day through Bellingham, and they would then head back through the city after unloading.
During the week of June 6-10, 2011 SSA Marine filed a permit application the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal. The application read:
"The applications submitted herein will cover the difference in scope between that approved project and our full buildout plan."
The earlier permit was noted in the application was approved by the Whatcom County Council in 1997. At that time, it envisioned a 180-acre development that would handle 8.2 million tons of cargoes per year, including petroleum coke (produced by local refineries) iron ore, sulfur, potash and wood chips. Coal was not mentioned an an export commodity in the earlier permit.
Later in June 2011, Whatcom County officials announced that SSA must apply for a new permit for its proposed Gateway Terminal.
April 2011: Public Debate on Cherry Point Coal Terminal
On April 27, 2011 a debate on the proposed port terminal at Cherry Point was held at the Bellingham City Club drew a crowed of 350 people. Supporters of the proposed $400 million project at addressed job creation — up to 213 to 280 permanent longshore jobs they stated.
Opponents, an increasing segment of the city, want to talk about the impact of an additional 18 to 20 trains every day, a mile-and-a-half long and very loud and heavy, running through some of the city's most valuable property.
"We have established an industrial area for a reason, to generate high wage jobs that fuel our economy," said Craig Cole, a Bellingham business leader, University of Washington regent and consultant to the terminal's builder SSA Marine.
But Bob Ferris, a project opponent, warned that the terminal would bring mile-and-a-half-long trains through Bellingham -- "30 miles of additional trains a day" -- and do local and global environmental damage.
"Coal is, bar none, the worst fossil fuel on the planet," said Ferris, a Whatcom County newcomer and leader of a group called Resources for Sustainable Communities. Ferris also noted that an increase in train traffic through Bellingham could bring "30 miles of additional trains a day".
May 2011: Bellingham Mayor takes heat from anti-coal community
On May 4, during a public forum on the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point in Bellingham, Washington, City Mayor Dan Pike drew criticism from anti-coal activists in the community for staying neutral on the controversial plan to ship tons of coal through the town. When asked whether he supported allowing the coal trains in Whatcom County, Pike stated he would not take a stand for or against because it was a complex question that had to do with national policy.
In response, one angry audience member shouted from the back of the room: “You’re a wimp.” More than 200 people packed into the Bellingham High School commons to attend the forum put on by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Climate Solutions and the Sierra Club. The majority of those in attendance seemed to be in opposition to the mine.
June 2011: Coal terminal foes dominate Bellingham hearing
On June 1, 2011, more than 300 people turned out for Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike's community meeting to discuss concerns about the environmental effects from the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal and bulk cargo export terminal at Cherry Point.
Most of those who spoke at the meeting stated their determined opposition to the Gateway Pacific project for a wide range of reasons: health effects from coal dust and ship and locomotive emissions; climate change from the burning of exported coal in China; disruption of waterfront redevelopment plans because of excessive train traffic through the city; reduced property values from railroad dirt and noise; and a black eye for Bellingham's image as a green community.
June 2011: Bellingham Mayor opposes Gateway Pacific Terminal project
In a press release in early June 2011 Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike stated that he was coming out in opposition to the Cherry Point port expansion. Mayor Pike wrote:
- My team and I met recently with representatives of SSA Marine and their main business partners, the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad. I hoped they would bring to the conversation recognition that their proposed project would have multiple downsides for our community. I hoped they would make a commitment to provide meaningful mitigations — or even better– a willingness consider other commodities, and not rely exclusively on coal exports for the terminal’s financial engine.
- Instead, these proponents brought denial of any potential harms and blatant defiance that they should change their plans in any way. In fact, it has become public knowledge that they have signed a multi-year deal with Montana’s Peabody Coal to ship at least 24 million tons of coal from our sensitive shores as their major focus of business for the foreseeable future.
- That is not a future that I want to see. By any calculation, the proposed coal-dependent terminal at Cherry Point does not add up.
June 2011: Whatcom County rejects Gateway Pacific cargo permit
In June 2011 it was announced that developers of the Gateway Pacific Terminal must apply for a new shoreline permit if they want to build a facility capable of handling up to 54 million tons of cargo a year, including coal. The decision came from Whatcom County planners and was a setback to SSA Marine which proposed to build the terminal at Cherry Point, Washington. SSA Marine holds a 1997 permit for a smaller facility that could handle up to 8.2 million tons of cargo a year, not including coal. The company argued that the larger coal export facility would require processing the application as a "revision" to the existing permit, and that the revisions would undergo the same level of scrutiny as a new application.
Environmental groups represented by Earthjustice stated that the application as a revision would require less public scrutiny and would mean the project could avoid tough environmental standards because it would be reviewed under 1992 shorelines laws instead of more recent ones. The groups included Sierra Club, Climate Solutions, and ReSources for Sustainable Communities.
Whatcom County sent the letter announcing their decision on June 23, 2011. The letter, from county Planning Supervisor Tyler Schroeder, said a new shorelines permit is required under county law because the new proposal is "beyond the scope and intent of the original approval." County code requires that it meet that standard for a permit revision, he said.
July 2011: Public meeting discusses Cherry Point coal terminal project
On July 7, 2011 more than 300 residents turned out for a forum at Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon, Washington to discuss the construction of a $600 million cargo terminal at Cherry Point in Bellingham. The facility would bring an estimated 18 more trains a day carrying coal shipments would cross Skagit and Whatcom counties to the new facility.
The forum was organized by environmental groups from Skagit County and the region, who said allowing the project to go through would cause local traffic problems, create air pollution and contribute to global warming.
July 2011: State to help handle a coal port proposal
It was reported on July 19, 2011 that The Washington Department of Ecology was to step in and help with the environmental review of a proposed Cherry Point coal terminal project, and assume a co-lead role on the review at the request of Whatcom County, which has the statutory responsibility to do the environmental assessment. It was a step sought by opponents of the coal terminal who feared having the study under the sole control of Whatcom County. Whatcom County had also asked the state for assistance.
August 2011: Doctors oppose coal terminal
In August 2011 it was reported that 160 doctors and health professionals in the Bellingham area signed a letter expressing concern about pollution from a proposed new terminal near them that would also export coal. The group, calling itself Whatcom Docs, contended that both coal dust and diesel emissions from trains and ships have been shown to have harmful impacts on human health. The group stated that they want a specific study on how Gateway Pacific, proposed by SSA Marine of Seattle, would impact health in Whatcom County and other places along the rail line.
August 2011: SSA Marine builds illegal coal terminal road
It was reported on August 1, 2011 that Washington State's Whatcom County prepared to fine Seattle-based company SSA Marine after it claimed the company built a series of roads through sensitive woodlands without a proper permit.
The company stated its two miles of dirt road it built was necessary to allow heavy equipment to conduct environmental impact studies in the area of the proposed terminal.
A company spokesman says SSA Marine stated it was permitted to build the roads based on a permit it received for a separate terminal in 1997.
In August 2011 the Department of Natural Resources confirmed that crews worked for SSA Marine had illegally cleared forestland without a permit, Whatcom County must impose a six-year development moratorium on the property, according to environmental attorneys opposed to the project.
SSA Marine's crews cleared land there without permits recently, and the company apologized. It was fined by Whatcom County. The DNR recently issued a notice to comply, saying the company didn’t have the required Forest Practices Application/Notification before doing the work.
According to a letter from an attorney for Earthjustice to Whatcom County planners, the county must impose a development ban on the SSA project for six years. Earthjustice stated that county code requires the ban after forest clearing is done without a permit. The result of the ban is that the county cannot accept an application for a project. As of August 16, 2011 Whatcom County had not decided on what sanctions, if any, they will impose on SSA Marine.
September 2011: Activists shine a light on Washington Coal Ports in Seattle
In September 2011 activists in Seattle shined a spotlight with a mountain background that stated, "Keep Washington Beautiful, No Coal Exports." The group, including at least on RAN activist, shined the stenciled spotlight on iconic images around the city, including the Space Needle. The group said they were protesting the proposed coal export terminals in the state, including Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal in Longview and Gateway Pacific Terminal near Ferndale, Washington.
October 2011: Group to sue SSA Marine over land clearing for Cherry Point project
It was announced in October 2011 that RE Sources for Sustainable Communities filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue Pacific International Terminals, Inc., SSA Marine's subsidiary corporation that was created to develop the proposed shipping terminal at Cherry Point.
RE Sources Executive Director Bob Ferris contended that SSA Marine violated the Clean Water Act when it cleared trees on the terminal site. Company spokesmen have admitted that the company was wrong in clearing roadways for geotechnical drilling equipment without obtaining permits to do so.
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles=
- Defense contractors
- Military-industrial complex
- Gateway Pacific Terminal
- Coal exports from northwest United States ports
- David Bacon, Umm Qasr -- From National Pride to War Booty", CorpWatch, December 15th, 2003.
- "RE Sources may sue SSA Marine over land clearing for Cherry Point project" John Stark, The Bellingham Herald, October 3, 2011.
- John Stark, "Gateway Pacific terminal at Cherry Point starts permit process" The Seattle Times, March 1, 2011.
- "Gateway Pacific permit application now available online" John Stark, The Bellingham Herald, June 14, 2011.
- "Whatcom County: Gateway Pacific cargo terminal needs new permit" Jared Paben, The Bellingham Herald, June 23, 2011.
- [Bellingham's first debate on coal-for-China project reflects growing tensions Floyd McKay, April 28, 2011.
- "Shipping coal to China: A big export terminal north of Bellingham?" Joel Connelly, Seattle PI, April 27, 2011.
- "Pike takes heat from anti-coal community" Marta Helpenstell, The Western Front, May 6, 2011.
- "Hundreds turn out to mayor's cargo terminal meeting" John Stark, The Bellingham Herald, June 1, 2011.
- "Pike says he will fight the Gateway Pacific Terminal project" Mayor Pike, The Bellingham Herald, June 3, 2011.
- "Whatcom County: Gateway Pacific cargo terminal needs new permit" Jared Paben, The Bellingham Herald, June 23, 2011.
- "Residents turn out with concerns about coal terminal project" Aaron Burkhalter, July 8, 2011.
- "State steps in to help handle a coal port proposal in Bellingham" Floyd McKay, Crosscut.com, July 18, 2011.
- "Short-line railroad floats third coal export terminal proposal in Wash." Tom Banse, KPLU.org, August 10, 2011.
- "Doctors want coal review, border officer guilty among week's top stories" The Bellingham Herald, August 14, 2011.
- "Company builds roads for coal terminal without proper permit" Jake Wittenberg, King 5, August 1, 2011.
- "Earthjustice: With DNR notice, Whatcom County must impose six-year development ban on SSA Marine land" The Bellingham Herald, August 16, 2011.
- "Activists Shine A Light On Washington Coal Ports" The Understory, RAN, September 15, 2011.
- "RE Sources may sue SSA Marine over land clearing for Cherry Point project" Bellingham Herald, October 3, 2011.