The Lummi Nation in northwestern Washington is about to join other native people in the region who oppose plans to export coal through the Pacific Northwest.
The tribe is expected to announce Friday its opposition to a proposed coal export facility in the Cherry Point area. That’s north of Bellingham and near its reservation.
The Gateway Pacific Terminal, if it’s built, could be the largest coal export facility on the West Coast.
Other tribes in the Northwest have come out in opposition to exporting coal but the Lummi have been quiet about the issue until now.
The tribe is holding a gathering on the reservation to announce their opposition with traditional canoes, speeches and a blessing of the water ceremony.
Jewell James is a tribal member and an advocate for the tribe’s treaty rights.
“We have a duty to the world,” he says. “All of us want cheap energy but we’re living in an era where the world’s heating up. Water is becoming scarce and we’re living in an environment that’s been destroyed. What does that say to our children and grandchildren.
The tribe worries that coal dust and diesel exhaust from the facility could harm salmon and herring habitat. They also claim the facility could destroy underwater archaeological sites and upland burial grounds.
The Lummi Nation is one of 20 tribes in the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. That body has not taken a position on coal exports in the Northwest because it has not reached a consensus on the issue.
The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission is a similar group. It represents four tribes along the Columbia River in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Spokeswoman Sara Thompson says the commission is concerned about barge traffic that endangers tribal fishers on the water. Its members also are worried about health risks from coal dust and potential impacts on water quality and salmon.
The commission’s executive director, Paul Lumley, testified this week in support of an anti-coal resolution adopted by the Portland City Council. Lumley is a member of the Yakama Nation.
Seattle-based SSA Marine wants to build a terminal within the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. It would ship millions of tons of coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia. The company says it would create thousands of jobs and generate millions in tax and other revenues.
Players: SSA Marine, Peabody Energy, Gateway Pacific, Korea East-West Power
Full Capacity: To be reached in 2026
Export Plans: 54 million* tons/year
Train Cars: 1,370/day
What’s Next: The project needs various approvals, including from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
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