July 30, 2016 Sandy Robson
Anyone wondering what is going on with SSA Marine/Pacific International Holdings/Pacific International Terminals’ suspension of the EIS for Gateway Pacific Terminal? Here are some answers from Mark Personius, Assistant Director of County PDS, to questions I had asked him recently.
My email communication with him is shown in the screenshot photo.
Only one day after the Army Corps’ May 9, 2016, treaty rights decision and GPT permit denial, Sr. VP. for SSA Marine (and President of PIT for what it’s worth), Bob Watters, sent a May 10, 2016 letter to County PDS.
I attached 2 screenshot photos of that letter.
In case the photo of the email is too blurry to see clearly, below are the questions and answers:
Me: 1) Pacific International Holding (or Terminals) suspended the EIS for the Gateway Pacific Terminal project on April 1, 2016 (PIH/PIT’s letter to the County was dated April 1, 2016).
Can PIH/PIT decide to resume the EIS for the GPT project even though the federal permit needed for the project was denied by the Army Corps, and the state permit needed for the project was denied by Washington DNR?
Personius: Yes. The applicant has the option to proceed only with the Whatcom County permit path (and associated EIS preparation and SEPA review)
Me: 2) Has PIH/PIT resumed that EIS process?
Me: 3) If the EIS for GPT is still suspended, his long of a suspension duration is PIH/PIT legally allowed?
Personius: For shoreline permits, it’s basically 180 days. However there are provisions in WCC 23.60.090.E that could allow for a longer “suspension” of a permit application (e.g., for SEPA review, litigation directly related to the proposal, etc.)
Me: It is my understanding from speaking with Josh Baldi, Director of the NW Regional Office for the WA Department of Ecology in April, that according to its contract with Whatcom County for the EIS, PIH/PIT is allowed to suspend the EIS for 45 days.
Mr. Baldi added that if the permit applicants ask for a longer pause, the County has granted 180-day pauses.
4) Is Mr. Baldi’s understanding he stated to me correct?
Personius: The 45 day time period is a condition of the applicant’s contract with Whatcom County for preparation of the EIS only.
Me: If so, is there a written policy stated somewhere that the County operates under this policy, or if it is a code, can you cite a code that states that?
Personius: The Whatcom County Code (WCC) does have language in the Shoreline Management Plan (Title 23) that addresses determination of “inactive” status of shoreline permit applications. Please see WCC 23.60.090.E for applicability of expiration of inactive shoreline permit applications.
Me: 5) Has PIH/PIT or its affiliates, requested a “longer pause,” an extended suspension beyond its 45 days (stipulated as allowable in its contract with Whatcom County) for the EIS for the GPT project?
Personius: My understanding is the applicant has requested an EIS contract amendment time extension, not to exceed 180 days, to work on closing out the consultant(s) work on the EIS.
Me: 6) When PIH/PIT suspended the EIS for the GPT project, did that action affect the EIS for the inter‐related BNSF Custer Spur Rail Expansion project? If so, how?
Personius: See answer below [to question #7]
Me: 7) Is the EIS for the inter-related Custer Spur Rail Expansion project still ongoing? If so, what is the status on that?
Personius: The BNSF Custer Spur Rail Expansion project SEPA review is inter-related with the GPT proposal SEPA review. Therefore both are presently suspended. BNSF has not asked the County to move forward separately with the Custer Spur SEPA review.