Until 8/5/2016, County’s GPT webpage could have given public the impression the proposed project was no longer in play / Letter to Whatcom County Executive, Sandy Robson

 

gpt web page pre aug 6 2016

Screenshot photo of what Whatcom County’s GPT webpage looked like prior to August 5th when the information was finally updated after citizens’ requests

August 28, 2016  Sandy Robson

–If you are opposed to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point you might want to check out my latest letter to Whatcom County. First is an excerpt from that letter that should give a very brief summary of what’s happening. My full letter with more details is shown below the excerpt.

“It appears as though up until August 5, 2016 after I, and others wrote the County, asking for 2016 GPT documents/correspondence to be posted on the County’s GPT webpage, that the County Administration’s public portrayal of the GPT Custer Spur Modification project could easily give the public the impression the proposed project was no longer in play, when, in fact, County Administration has been working closely with the applicants, affording them more than what seems reasonable time, and every opportunity to keep their GPT and Custer Spur Modification project path with the County alive. And, at the same time the County Administration has been working closely with the applicants, it was not affording the public even a modicum of an adequate level of public awareness about the status of the project.”

new gpt webpage post aug 6 2016

Screenshot photo of what Whatcom County’s GPT webpage looked like as of August 27th after the information was finally updated on August 5th after citizens’ requests

From: Sandra Robson
Date: August 27, 2016 at 4:57:02 PM PDT
To: Tyler Schroeder <tschroed@co.whatcom.wa.us>
Cc: JLouws@co.whatcom.wa.us, Council <council@co.whatcom.wa.us>, BBuchana@co.whatcom.wa.us, Barbara Brenner <bbrenner@co.whatcom.wa.us>, cweimer@co.whatcom.wa.us, SSidhu@co.whatcom.wa.us, Ken Mann <kmann@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Todd Donovan <tdonovan@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Rud Browne <RBrowne@co.whatcom.wa.us>, Randel.J.Perry@usace.army.mil, Josh Baldi <jbal461@ecy.wa.gov>
Subject: Whatcom County’s GPT webpage

Tyler,

I imagine you received my August 25 email that I sent to the co-lead agencies tasked with the GPT project EIS. That email was about the information presently displayed on the official EIS website for the Gateway Pacific Terminal/Custer Spur projects.

Looking at that website and seeing how inadequate the information displayed on it is in terms of updating things since PIT/PIH’s April 1, 2016 suspension of the EIS preparation, caused me to re-visit Whatcom County’s GPT webpage.

It’s important to note that on Whatcom County’s GPT webpage, until August 5, 2016, after being contacted by citizens such as myself, there was only one short paragraph displayed under the “Project Update” section, and that read:

“On April 1, 2016 the applicants requested the co-leads suspend EIS preparation for the proposed Gateway Pacific project. The co-leads are conferring on the request before issuing a formal response.”

Below, I’ve copied and pasted an excerpt from the improved, but still inadequate, “Project Update” section (as of today’s date) from that GPT webpage on the County’s website. I attached a photo of that page at the bottom of this email. The excerpt reads:

“The Army Corp of Engineer’s decision may affect the future permit decision by Whatcom County. There are unique policy and legal issues related to the Gateway Pacific Terminal Project, so the co-leads will be in close communication with one another and legal counsel to determine the most appropriate path given the evolving situation.”

The above paragraph is quite insufficient in terms of informing the public. When it says, “The Army Corp of Engineer’s decision,” there is no reference to what specific decision is being referred to, no details of the decision, and no mention of the date on which that decision was made.

In the same excerpt quoted above, it says, “the evolving situation…” What exactly is the “evolving situation”?

It is stated in that excerpt that there are “unique policy and legal issues related to the Gateway Pacific Terminal Project.” Why is there not even a basic summary provided to give the public some idea of what those “unique policy and legal issues” are?

In the “Project Update” section, there is also no reference to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ GPT lease denial decision made on June 6, 2016.

People deserve to know these things about a project that is of great public interest, and has been impacting County residents since 2011.

What happened to public involvement for this project? To the best of my knowledge, in 2016, there has not been any information disseminated to interested parties regarding the status of the proposed GPT Custer Spur Modification project. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no official announcement or information coming from Whatcom County government that has been published in our local newspapers about the status of the proposed project and the EIS, subsequent to the May 9 USACE permit denial and June 6 DNR lease denial.

It would be one thing if the County was no longer actively keeping up with its responsibility to inform the public if it had terminated the contract for the EIS preparation for the project, and had denied the two County permits needed by PIT/PIH for its GPT project. But, instead, the County Administration has been continuing to breathe life into the project since April 15, 2016 which is when the initial 45-day EIS suspension invoked by PIT/PIH was over, and since that time, County Administration has basically been allowing PIT/PIH to tell it what they want to happen. While the County Administration is keeping the GPT project permits alive, the County Administration should at the very least be informing the public.

All of this is occurring on a project that has already been declared dead at the federal and state levels in May and June. It appears as though up until August 5, 2016 after I, and others wrote the County, asking for 2016 GPT documents/correspondence to be posted on the County’s GPT webpage, that the County Administration’s public portrayal of the GPT Custer Spur Modification project could easily give the public the impression the proposed project was no longer in play, when, in fact, County Administration has been working closely with the applicants, affording them more than what seems reasonable time, and every opportunity to keep their GPT and Custer Spur Modification project path with the County alive. And, at the same time the County Administration has been working closely with the applicants, it was not affording the public even a modicum of an adequate level of public awareness about the status of the project.

In the 2012 Public Involvement Plan for the proposed GPT/Custer Spur EIS, prepared by CH2M Hill, on page 1-1, it lists the co-lead agencies’ shared goals for the public involvement process. The first goal reads:
“Deliver a ‘transparent’ environmental review process that provides ongoing, inclusive, and meaningful two-way communication between the Co-Lead Agencies and the public.”

As a co-lead agency, Whatcom County has a responsibility to inform its citizens about this project, of which there is great public interest, yet the County continues to fall woefully short on doing that in 2016. The question that is beginning to form in my mind after witnessing the County’s actions, is whether this has been intentional or not on the County Administration’s part.

In the “Project Update” section it reads: “On May 10, 2016 the applicants requested Whatcom County to extend the current contracts an additional 180 days to allow time for PIT/PIH to review and pursue alternative actions. On May 26, 2016, in response to PIT/PIH’s request, Whatcom County via email agreed to a 60 day extension to the contract and provided two contract options: 1) move forward and complete the preparation of the SEPA draft EIS or 2) Sign a not to exceed 180-day contract extension to finalize the current contracted work. On July 22, 2016 Whatcom County provided written verification via email extending the contract(s) through August 31, 2016 to allow time for PIT/PIH to finalize their decision as it relates to the contracted services associated with the EIS preparation.”

In the recap the County posted, the information presented is not quite accurate or adequate. In PIT/PIH’s May 10, 2016 letter to you/the County, the applicant asked the County to “execute an addendum that extends the EIS suspension to 180 days with another automatic 180-day suspension if the issues have not been resolved by that time.” In its recap, the County left out the part about “another automatic 180-day suspension if the issues have not been resolved by that time,” which is above and beyond the 180 days request.

You told me in an August 24 email that “it has been communicated that if the applicant chooses to sign the 180-day ramp down contract the County will extend the contract until after the Sept. 13th [Council] meeting.”
And, told me that was communicated to the applicant in an August 23rd phone call, but that “No specific date [deadline date] has been offered, the discussion was that an extension would be granted to allow sufficient time for the Council to approve the contract amendment.”

–I request that the County update its GPT webpage under the “Project Update” section, to reflect the new contract deadline and details about that, as soon as it would be agreed upon by the applicant/s and the co-lead agencies.

–I request that any documents/email correspondence regarding a new contract deadline beyond the current August 30, 2016 deadline, be posted on the County’s GPT webpage as soon as it would be agreed upon by the applicant/s and the co-lead agencies.

–I request that the information be updated on the County website to more accurately inform the public in terms of the Lummi treaty rights decision by the USACE that resulted in a denial of the GPT permit on May 9, 2016, and Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ GPT lease denial decision made on June 6, 2016. That information is important for the public to be informed of, and should be included under the “Project Update” section.

I would appreciate a response back.
Thank you.
Regards,

Sandy Robson

 

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