Editor’s note 5/11/16: See exclusive video footage of Lummi Nation leaders receiving news of the Corps’ decision and their reflections on it here.
Fabulous news: earlier today, the US Army Corps of Engineers preemptively denied a permit for the proposed Gateway Pacific coal export terminal outside of Bellingham, Washington. The reason: they determined that the project would violate the treaty fishing rights of Lummi Nation. Courtesy of The Bellingham Herald, here’s the full text of the Corps’ announcement outlining its reasoning:
After careful consideration of all the information available to him, Seattle District Commander Col. John Buck has determined the potential impacts to the Lummi Nation’s usual and accustomed (U&A) fishing rights from the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal are greater than de minimis.
Because the district has determined the effects to the Lummi’s rights are more than de minimis and because the Lummi maintain their objections to this proposal, the project cannot be permitted by the Corps….
“I have thoroughly reviewed thousands of pages of submittals from the Lummi Nation and Pacific International Holdings,” said Col. Buck. “I have also reviewed my staff’s determination that the Gateway Pacific Terminal would have a greater than de minimis impact on the Lummi Nation’s U&A rights, and I have determined the project is not permittable as currently proposed.”
There’s already been some fabulous reporting on the announcement, including pieces in The Bellingham Herald and The Seattle Times. But the can’t-miss reading comes straight from Lummi Nation and allied tribes, compiled over at Northwest Treaty Tribes. Here’s a handful of choice quotes:
“This is a historic victory for treaty rights and the constitution.” — Tim Ballew II, Chairman of Lummi Nation
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“Just as it is the Corps’ duty to uphold our treaty rights, so it is our duty to fight for and protect these waters for future generations.” — Frances Charles, Chair, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe
“Our ancestors sacrificed so much to protect these waters and our way of life.” — Melvin R. Sheldon Jr., Chair, Tulalip Tribes
There were obviously a lot of forces lined up against the Gateway Pacific terminal: folks concerned about the massive climate impacts that would be created by shipping tens of millions of tons of coal every year to Asia; communities troubled by the prospect of coal dust; businesses balking at the massive increase in train traffic that could snarl rail lines; and, of course, the increasingly dismal economics of shipping coal to Asia—which, after five consecutive years of collapsing coal prices, has made Northwest coal terminals look increasingly irrelevant.
But in the end, it was Lummi Nation that carried the day. Its unwavering fight for its tribal rights, guaranteed to it by treaty, put the final nail in the coffin of the project.
So, deep gratitude to the Lummi—and congratulations to everyone involved in another victory for the Thin Green Line!