Tuesday, October 4, 2011

RE Sources files 60 day notice of intent to sue SSA Marine for Clean Water Act violations at Cherry Point

RE Sources files 60 day notice of intent to sue SSA Marine for Clean Water Act violations at Cherry Point
Is SSA’s unpermitted land clearing a sign of what Whatcom County should expect?

Whatcom County— RE Sources for Sustainable Communities today filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue Pacific International Terminals, Inc., SSA Marine’s subsidiary corporation created to develop the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) at Cherry Point. The notice is based on Clean Water Act violations committed as part of SSA Marine’s unpermitted clearing of land and wetland modification at the site where SSA plans to build North America’s largest coal terminal.

“We waited patiently for the responsible agencies to take the proper steps when SSA Marine broke the law and violated water quality protections,” said Bob Ferris Executive Director for RE Sources. “They did not, so we are.”

This 60-day notice comes on the heels of wetland scientists at the Department of Ecology criticizing the minimal mitigation requirements issued by Whatcom County’s Planning and Development Services for the retroactive clearing permits, and failure to impose the mandatory six-year permit moratorium. 

“SSA Marine has repeatedly promised to meet or exceed health and environmental protections in developing the Cherry Point coal terminal. Yet the company’s illegal logging is part of a track record of violating environmental safeguards and calls into question whether we can trust this company in the future,” said Matt Krogh, North Sound Baykeeper at RE Sources.

A case in point is SSA’s own discharge reports at Terminal 18 in Seattle over the last year and a half that have shown pollutant levels hundreds of times the state’s allowable standards. This violation is currently the subject of litigation filed by Puget Soundkeeper Alliance in Seattle, Washington.

Another issue of concern for RE Sources is the potential for a biased process in permitting the Gateway Pacific Terminal. Locally, land owners have been served by Whatcom County with land use moratoriums even if they already had permission from the DNR to cut trees—but when SSA had no county permits and no DNR permission to cut more than 9 acres of forest and wetlands, they only received a slap on the wrist from the County.

 “Treating this violation any differently from other violations creates the impression—rightfully or wrongly—of uneven application of the statutes,” said Mr. Ferris.

“Given SSA’s history of exercising political pressure, agencies need to be especially careful to avoid the appearance of undue influence.”
RE Sources is represented by Smith & Lowney, PLLC, of Seattle.

RE Sources is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that includes the North Sound Baykeeper.  Neither RE Sources or the North Sound Baykeeper receives direct financial benefits from lawsuits filed under the auspices of the citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act.

Bob Ferris (360) 733-8307, bobf@re-sources.org
Matt Krogh (360) 820-2938, mattk@re-sources.org

{Links below to two moratorium examples where the County took unilateral action to find conversion, regardless of DNR permits}

In this example, the DNR provided a permit for clearing, but the County imposed the 6-year moratorium anyway for failure to file the appropriate County paperwork: http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/council/hearing_examiner/decisions/2010/leghorn.pdf 

Similar in this case, except the problem is explicitly that the clear-cutter didn't obtain a County Conversion Option Harvest Plan--clearly indicating that the County, regardless of the DNR Class III Forest Practices permit, felt entitled to impose a 6 year moratorium based on the conversion determination: http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/council/hearing_examiner/decisions/2009/tramf.pdf


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