— by Dave Gallagher, Bellingham Herald —
Developers of the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point have withdrawn its permit applications, essentially closing the book on the project.
Pacific International Terminals sent a letter Tuesday to Whatcom County officials announcing it was stopping the environmental impact statement process and is withdrawing its applications for the Gateway Pacific Terminal.
The company, which is a subsidiary to SSA Marine, said it is looking into other alternatives, including modifications to the project. It is not abandoning any other rights it may have on the property, said Skip Sahlin, vice president of project development for SSA Marine.
To restart the project, the company would need a new application and would have to start the permit process all over again, said Tyler Schroeder, deputy executive for the county.
The coal terminal proposal was considered dead last May when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a needed permit, saying the project would impact the treaty-protected fishing rights of Lummi Nation. Whatcom County Planning & Development Services sent a letter to Pacific International Holdings in October, informing the company it was recommending to the hearing examiner that the applications be denied. In the letter to the county, Sahlin said the company is considering challenging the Army Corps’ decision.
The estimated $700 million project has been debated in Whatcom County for years, with backers citing the needed living-wage jobs and opponents concerned about increased train traffic and pollution. Coal companies were hoping exports to Asia would help shore up the industry, which has been battered by competition from cheap natural gas and more stringent restrictions on pollution.