Last July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers solicited public comments on its draft environmental impact statement “exploring the possible impacts of operating the north wing of a Y-shaped oil transfer dock at the BP Cherry Point refinery.” The Bellingham Herald reports that the draft “came out after a more than eight-year process that included delays over studies of vessel traffic to the dock.”
Extreme environmental groups were quick to take advantage of the Corp’s open comment period. The “green” advocacy group Friends of the Earth responded by “creating a form letter and asked people on its mailing list to sign and send it to the Corps through a communication program called Salsa.” The group managed to get at least 26,914 people to submit its form.
So, when the Corp’s issued a press release that more than 2,000 comments had been received during the comment period, Friends of the Earth realized its generic forms had gone unnoticed. As it turns out, the Corp’s email system ironically identified the email submissions as “malicious spam.”
According to the Corps’ IT department, the email system identified the green groups’ submissions as a denial-of-service (DoS) attack. DoS attacks attempt to “crash or bring down a website or online service by overloading it with traffic, sometimes from the same IP address.” A Corps spokesperson recommended simple solutions to avoiding similar problems in the future: “people should consider signing a petition, or having each commenter send an email from their own address.”
The Bellingham Herald reports that the final environmental impact statement will be released this spring. It will address all public comments received.