The controversy over coal-export railway terminals at Cherry Point near Lummi territory in Washington State has drawn the attention of the venerable Public Broadcasting System.
PBS Newshour broadcast a story on August 2 detailing the brewing battle, from tribal opposition to the reservations of health professionals concerned about the respiratory effects of both coal dust and diesel exhaust. The report starts and ends with input from Lummi fisher Jeremiah Julius, who articulates the nation’s concern about the destruction to habitat, air and tradition.
“The whole landscape is sacred to us,” Julius tells a reporter at the beginning of the segment. “There's not much contaminant-free lands left in the United States. This is one of them.”
The segment aired the same day that the Lummi Nation sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers formally registering the tribe’s opposition to the plan.
Washington State officials along with other partners are conducting an environmental review of the shipping terminal project, which would entail exporting 54 million metric tons annually of “bulk commodities,” including as much as 48 million metric tons of coal per year, the Washington Department of Ecology said in a statement on July 31.
The Bellingham Herald reported on August 1 that a firm stance against the project “could stop the federal permit process for the coal terminal dead in its tracks.” Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have said that if the tribe were to state in writing that there is no chance for an agreement with the company, SSA Marine, the federal agency would take that into account when evaluating federal permit applications.
"If the Lummis come to that position, it will make us reassess the direction we are going," said Muffy Walker, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers’ regulatory branch in Seattle, at a press conference according to the newspaper. "We have denied permits in the past, based on tribal concerns."
If Julius’s sentiments are typical, the Lummi Nation’s stance does not look likely to change.
“To me, these tankers are the trains that killed off the buffalo,” said Julius. “These tankers are going to kill my way of life. So to me, this is—it is a battle.”
Watch Pacific Northwest Weighs Environmental Risks of Cashing in on Coal Export Market at the PBS website.