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Lack of permits prompts $1.6M settlement
In the first of what may become many legal battles about the Gateway Pacific Terminals Cherry Point coal port proposal, RE-Sources for Sustainable Communities settled in U.S. District Court its lawsuit claiming that Pacific International Terminals illegally cleared, bulldozed, drilled and filled 1.2 acres at the site of the proposed coal port.
PIT, a subsidiary of SSA Marine of Seattle, agreed to pay $1.6 million in penalties and fees, including a payment of $825,000 to the Rose Foundation for Puget Sound restoration projects, $775,000 to RE Sources attorneys, and a 2.9-acre wetlands set aside to mitigate impacts of un-permitted activities at the site.
PIT’s work at the Cherry Point site was part of a geotechnical investigation project, authorized by PIT on property currently planned for the Gateway Pacific Coal Terminal. The data gathered by the geotechnical investigation, it was claimed in the suit, supports project planning and design.
According to Crina Hoyer, executive director of RE Sources, SSA Marine, the corporate parent for PIT, knew what they were doing, including the fact that the Lummi Nation identified some of the land in question as archaeological or tribal burial sites. Hoyer noted in a press release that SSA has decades of experience developing marine port facilities, including building new operations and providing engineering, port design, terminal construction and project management services.
According to RE Sources attorney Richard Smith, “PIT acknowledged that they knew beforehand that permits or authorizations were required not only from the Army Corps, but also from Ecology and Whatcom County. They could offer no explanation for why they didn’t get these, except that following the law ‘fell through the cracks.’”
Philip S. Lanterman, a Re Sources consultant on large-scale construction project management, stated “In my opinion, it is probable that PIT intentionally chose to proceed with the geotechnical investigation without necessary permits to obtain the expected economic benefit of securing the geotechnical information early in the project timeline, and PIT has actually received such benefit.”
SSA Senior Vice President Bob Watters countered in a press release: “This is what we call a ‘nuisance’ lawsuit. We thought we had the permits we needed. As soon as we found out we did not, we stopped the work. Even before the Corps, Ecology and Whatcom County came out with their findings, we began to develop a plan for restoring any affected habitat.”