In this April 4, 2013 file photo, a truck carrying 250 tons of coal hauls the fuel to the surface of the Cloud Peak Energy's Spring Creek mine near Decker, Montana.

Crow Tribe Inks Partnership to Develop Washington State Coal Port


The Crow Tribe of Montana has inked a partnership with Cloud Peak Energy and SSA Marine for a five percent share of Gateway Pacific Terminal, the coal export terminal proposed in northernwestern Washington State near the Canadian border. 

The tribe's buy-in cost will be decided if and when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grants approval to the export project, reported billingsgazette.com. The Crow Tribal Legislature additionally needs to sign off on the agreement made by Crow Tribal Chairman Darren Old Coyote when its members convene in October.

Proponents estimate the terminal could open in five years and ship roughly 48 million metric tons of coal annually to international markets, reported bellinghamherald.com.

The Crow Tribe will have an option to secure 5 percent from shareholder Cloud Peak Energy's 49 percent stake. SSA Marine—the largest U.S. owned and largest, privately-held container terminal operator and cargo handling company in the world—owns the other 51 percent. A Wyoming-based mining company, Cloud Peak Energy paid SSA Marine $2 million upon signing and will pay all future permitting expenses up to $30 million, which is anticipated to cover expenses through 2019, a press release states. The owners will then share any additional permitting expenses based on their ownership interests.

The Gateway Pacific Terminal would export coal internationally and additionally handle products like grain and potash. If given the green light, Gateway Pacific Terminal would also export the Crow's farm commodities, offering more income diversity to the tribe, Old Coyote told the billingsgazette.com.

The Crow Tribe and Cloud Peak Energy are already partners on the Big Metal Mine on the Crow Reservation. Coal reserves on Crow tribal land in southeast Montana are estimated at 17 billion tons.

"This unique opportunity is a continuation of our mutually beneficial relationship with Cloud Peak Energy and further increases the potential for developing the Crow Tribe’s coal resources," Old Coyote said in a press release. "Development of Tribal coal will help diversify the Tribe’s long-term revenues and provide much needed, family-wage Tribal jobs."

But the Gateway Pacific Terminal faces strong opposition from many tribal leaders in the Pacific Northwest, namely the Lummi Nation of Puget Sound. The coal port threatens tribal fishing territory, traditional hunting and sacred sites, and heightens the risk of an oil spill and degraded marine health from coal dust, among other potential hazards.

RELATED: Tribal Leaders in Pacific Northwest Take a Stand Against Coal Terminals

The Case Against Coal Terminals: Lummi Cite Health, Environmental Factors

The Lummi Nation in Seattle began spearheading the fight against the proposed terminal more than three years ago. The proposed site is near Lummi sacred land called Cherry Point, part of their treaty protected fishing area and their Lummi ancestral village. A coal terminal would reap irreparable harm to their crab and salmon fisheries, the tribe contends.

In May, the Lummi formed an alliance with representatives of fellow Pacific Northwestern tribes including the Lower Elwha, Quinault, Tulalip, Spokane, Swinomish, Yakama and the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny permits for the proposed coal train. Amid tribal objection, the Corps asked SSA Marine to respond to the Lummi’s concerns by May, but the company missed the deadline, insisting it needed more time. The Corps continues to collect information from the SSA and the Lummi Nation, and the Corps says it will make a decision independent of the environmental review. Montana senators and the state's attorney general have asked the Corps to finish the review before ruling on the Lummi request.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article31482155.html#storylink=cpy
Following the announcement of the Crow Tribe's option in the coal export terminal, Montana republican senators and Attorney General Tim Fox have started urging the Army Corps to continue the environmental review process.
Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article31482155.html#storylink=cpy

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