Politics Blog

Coal terminal proponent: We need more time to respond to Lummis’ fishing rights claim

SSA Marine, which would build a coal terminal at Cherry Point, says it needs at least 90 more days to respond to Lummi Nation’s request to have a terminal permit rejected.

Before it can begin substantive work on a response, and before the 90-day clock should start ticking, SSA said in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dated May 12, that it would wait for the Corps’ definition of the legal term “de minimis” as it would apply to Lummi Nation’s claim that Gateway Pacific Terminal and associated vessel traffic would interfere with fishing grounds protected by an 1855 treaty.

The Corps has said all along, since Lummi Nation put forward its request to the federal agency on Jan. 5, that it would adhere to a “de minimis” standard to determine whether it would need to bring a halt to the project because it interfered with fishing rights. According to the legal dictionary on thefreedictionary.com, “ de minimis” means “of minimum importance” or “trifling.”

From The Free Dictionary:

“Essentially, it refers to something or a difference that is so little, small, minuscule, or tiny that the law does not refer to it and will not consider it. In a million dollar deal, a $10 mistake is de minimis.”

(The original source of this definition is West’s Encyclopedia of American Law. Safe to say, the Corps will delve deeper into its determination of “de minimis” than I just did.)

Here ( May 8) and here ( May 12) are two letters SSA Marine/Pacific International Terminals sent the Corps following the Corps’ April 10 request for a response from the coal terminal applicant. Lummi Nation’s Jan. 5 request to the Corps to shut down the terminal project has triggered several volleys of letters between SSA Marine and the Corps, and Luumi Nation and the Corps. The tribe and the terminal operator are not in direct discussions.

The Bellingham Herald will have more on SSA Marine’s letters, including responses from Lummi Nation and the Corps, probably for the Wednesday, May 20, edition of the paper.