Islands ignored by coal port EIS

The San Juan County Council is “disturbed” that the scope of the environmental impact statement for the Gateway Pacific Terminal project apparently pays no attention to San Jan County.

At its Jan. 7 meeting, the County Council approved a letter to the Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Ecology and Whatcom County - the three “co-lead agencies” which jointly will produce the EIS - that asks for specific consideration of the impacts of the project on San Juan County.

The impacts in question were detailed in a letter prepared and submitted by the council in 2012 during a months-long EIS scoping process that included hearings in Friday Harbor and six other locations around the state in that year.

That letter specifically asked for an “area wide EIS” that would “consider the cumulative impact of the transportation, storage, shipment, and use of coal” on the Salish Sea ecosystem and on the health of San Juan County’s citizens and economy.

A joint release of the three co-lead agencies in July, 2013, rejected the idea of an area-wide EIS, saying instead that the environmental review of the project “will closely study… direct effects at the site and evaluate a broad range of indirect and cumulative impacts likely to occur within and beyond Washington.”

In its latest letter, the council wrote, “Most importantly, we are disturbed that none of the ‘co-lead agencies’ recognize the obligation to include the concerns that we have expressed specifically for San Juan County.”

Alice Kelly, a planner for the Department of Ecology working on the Gateway Pacific project EIS, would not comment on the council’s letter until all parties had received and considered it, but she pointed out that the EIS will consider all “reasonably foreseeable impacts and effects that can be attributed to this project” other than the impacts and effects of the mining projects in Montana and Wyoming, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

In other Jan. 7 meeting activity, the council discussed the draft revisions to the critical areas ordinances and set the public hearing date on the ordinances to Feb. 4.

The council also unanimously elected Rick Hughes as 2014 council chairman and Bob Jarman as vice-chairman.


Goldman Sachs sells 49 percent investment in SSA Marine

Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs has sold its 49 percent interest in Carrix Inc., the parent of Gateway Pacific lead developer SSA Marine.

Carrix, the holding company for world-wide port operator SSA Marine, announced on Jan. 8 that the Goldman Sachs private equity infrastructure fund had sold its 49 percent interest in Carrix back to the Smith-Hemingway family, which in turn sold the stock to Fernando Chico Pardo.

Pardo is a Mexico-based investor whose private equity investment company, Promecap, is majority owner of a transportation infrastructure company that operates airports in Mexico.

Bob Watters, a Carrix senior vice-president, said the transaction was not related to the company’s proposal for the commodity terminal at Cherry Point and will not affect the company’s commitment to the project. Watters emphasized that the terminal at full operation will handle a variety of commodities, including coal, and that Carrix operating unit SSA Marine will “continue to press on” in developing the GPT Terminal.

However, Crina Hoyer, Executive Director of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, an opponent of the terminal, issued a statement that the transaction is “yet another sign from Wall Street that coal export is a losing investment. …[C]ommunities across the region are saying no to this bad deal because of health, climate, environmental and economic impacts.  We can do better than coal export both in Bellingham and the Northwest.”

Goldman Sachs confirmed the transaction, but neither Goldman or Carrix would comment on the value of the investment.


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