Montana Congressman: Don’t let Cherry Point terminal become next Keystone XL

In a letter yesterday, Montana’s only Congressional Representative urged Gov. Jay Inslee not to let the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal “become the next Keystone XL pipeline.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke asked Inslee to help finish the permitting process for the Cherry Point coal terminal and support involving members of Crow Nation, a Montana tribe, in talks with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about the project’s fate.

“As you are surely aware, Montana and the people of the Crow Nation are eagerly awaiting the approval of the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT),” the letter reads. “Although project organizers submitted their application more than two years ago, a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has yet to be released.”

As Ralph Schwartz reported in this March 23 story, Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote wrote to the Corps in January, asking the federal agency to hold a meeting between their tribe, which hopes to mine coal on its reservation and ship it to foreign markets, and Lummi Nation, which has fished the waters off Cherry Point for centuries and is opposed to the terminal.

The Crow letter was sent in response to a Jan. 5 request from Lummi Nation to the Corps, asking the agency to reject the terminal because it interfered with the Lummis’ ancient fishing practices, which were reinforced in U.S. law by an 1855 treaty.

“The Crow Nation has been mining coal on its reservation lands for over 40 years,” Zinke’s letter states. “Montana has more than 30 percent of the nation’s recoverable coal reserves – enough to power America for 250 years – and the tribe currently sits on an estimated 9 billion tons of coal. However, due to transportation challenges, they have not been able to move coal to the market and actualize on their energy potential. Fully tapping into one of the largest coal reserves in the nation would provide vital opportunities for economic growth for the Crow people and the people of Washington state.”

In March, Corps spokeswoman Patricia Graesser told The Bellingham Herald via email that, “The Corps wouldn’t be the appropriate agency to facilitate such a meeting,” between the tribes.

The Lummis have hosted the Crow at Cherry Point and have told the Montana tribe about the anticipated disruptions to Puget Sound fishing areas, Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew said in March.

“As the EIS process continues, I respectfully ask that you assist with the completion of the draft and permitting process for the terminal. I also request you support the Crow’s involvement in discussions about the fate of the GPT with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Washington-based tribes,” Zinke said in the letter to Inslee. “I cannot stress enough how access to this terminal will revitalize the Crow Nation and empower thousands of its members who remain unemployed. I urge you, Governor: Please do not let the GPT infrastructure project become the next Keystone XL pipeline.”

Specifically, that means not letting the project “suffer the same bureaucratic fate as the Keystone XL,” according to an announcement on Zinke’s website.

The full letter can be read here.