NPR Story
6:05 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Elected Officials Ask Oregon Governor To Deny Coal Export Permit

Dozens of elected officials from across the region are asking Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and a state agency director to deny a key permit for a coal export project on the Columbia River.

The request went out in the form of a letter from 86 officials including mayors, city councilors and state lawmakers from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

They want the governor and Oregon Department of State Lands Director Mary Abrams to stop the Morrow Pacific coal export project. The project would ship nearly 9 million tons of coal a year from Wyoming and Montana to Asia by trains, barges and ships.

Opponents say the state of Oregon can stop the project by denying a permit project developer Ambre Energy needs to build a dock for coal barges at the Port of Morrow in Boardman. Oregon Representative Jules Bailey of Portland is one of the officials who wants to see that happen. He says Gov. Kitzhaber has "a lot of tools at his disposal" that he could to deny the project.

"I think where there's a will there's a way," he said. "Folks in state government from the governor on down ought to be looking for ways we can have a more responsible, sustainable path."

Kitzhaber spokeswoman Rachel Wray says the permit in question is issued by the state lands department "a standards-based review process."

She says isn't aware of any plans for the governor to get involved in that permitting process.

Earlier this week, the company once again asked the state to extend the deadline for completing its permit application.

Last month, the Oregon Department of State Lands notified the company that it will also need to lease state land in the areas where the project would operate over state-owned land submerged in water. That will require additional state approval.

The Morrow Pacific project is the smallest of three proposed coal export facilities that mining and shipping interests want to build in the Pacific Northwest. The Gateway Pacific project proposed north of Bellingham Washington would ship 48 million tons a year and the Millenium Bulk terminal in Longview would ship up to 44 million tons of coal. All three projects would receive Wyoming or Montana coal hauled in by train. The terminals would transfer the coal to ocean-going vessels bound for Asian markets.

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