Quinault president speaks against oil terminal projects

Fawn Sharp explains why —and how — Hoquiam City Council could halt planned oil terminal projects

Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, spoke to the Hoquiam City Council on Monday about the tribe’s opposition to two crude-by-rail terminal projects proposed by Westway Terminal Co. LLC and Renewable Energy Group, Inc., formerly Imperium Terminal Services, slated for construction in the city.

All levels of government “have a duty and obligation to consider the impacts on Quinault citizens and other citizens of Grays Harbor,” Sharp said. “And those impacts can’t be mitigated.”

And, she noted, those affects were made apparent in the Draft Environmental Impact Statements.

The Quinaults want to see the city and state Department of Ecology choose the no-action alternative in the projects’ Final Environmental Impact Statements and deny requests for the shoreline development permit applications. FEIS documents for the projects could be released this month, according to the state.

Sharp spent much of her speech providing the council members information about how various laws allow them — even compel them — to take a stand against the projects.

The State Environmental Policy Act authorizes governments to set conditions or simply deny proposed actions if there are environmental impacts that can’t be mitigated, she noted.

And courts are holding government officials liable for making decisions without considering the public impacts. The Public Trust Doctrine, for example, “provides a basis and also provides defense for denying permits,” she said.

Sharp explained that treaty law should also prove effective in quashing the project. Only the DEIS documents “marginalize” the weight of the treaty in spite of harm that such oil projects would cause to the tribe’s fishing area. Grays Harbor falls within the Quinault’s federally reserved treaty fishing and gathering area, and federal courts will uphold such treaty rights unless there is congressional authorization to do otherwise, she said.

She also stressed that the Quinaults “would take all measures necessary to protect their treaty rights.”

Public opinion is against the projects, Sharp said, and pointed out that hundreds of Quinaults and other residents from across the county came to Hoquiam and stood outside the City Hall in July to show their opposition to the projects during the “Shared Waters, Shared Values” rally.

And virtually every seat for audience members in the small meeting room on Monday was taken by area residents also against the oil projects. Many of these people were voicing their agreement with Sharp and the Quinaults and holding signs with such slogans as “I Stand Against Oil Trains” and “No Oil Here — Protect the Harbor.”

“We’re here in support of President Sharp,” said Tammy Lenz-Domike, a member of Citizens for a Clean Harbor, before the meeting.