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But that’s not the end. One more approval is required. Perhaps the biggest hurdle—and the last—is getting Gateway by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. If Gateway can clear all the other hurdles, SSA Marine must still secure a lease to build its facility within the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, which was established in 2000.
Goldmark alone makes this call, and there is no appeal short of the courts. The lease would be a “business lease,” which means it may not require a public process; business leases are typically negotiated. Goldmark updated the Reserve’s management plan in November 2010 shortly before the public learned that coal was the target export commodity at Cherry Point. The 181-page management plan doesn’t mention the word “coal.” But it is filled with strict measures to protect species and habitat in the Reserve.
Goldmark was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 with support from both environmentalists and industry. Two companies associated with Gateway Pacific contributed to his 2012 campaign (SSA gave $1,800 via Pacific International Terminals; BNSF gave $500). Goldmark has carefully avoided comment on the terminal, but his staff is following developments and he has a representative on MAP, the multi-agency state team that is working on ways to streamline the permit process.
Goldmark’s approval is by no means guaranteed. But his refusal to issue the lease if all other agencies sign off on the Gateway Pacific Terminal would be a political action rivaled only by Gov. John Spellman’s 1982 veto of a legislative attempt to waive shoreline rules in order to permit a plant to build oil rigs at Cherry Point.
If the Gateway coal terminal gets as far as Goldmark, it will have survived one of the most-intense public examinations of a private development project in the region’s history. Regardless of the outcome, approval or rejection, the Gateway Pacific Terminal will leave its mark on the Pacific Northwest.
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