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Coal export project gets thumbs down from state

For the first time, a government agency has rejected a permit sought for one of the coal export facilities proposed in the Northwest.

The Oregon Department of State Lands announced Monday that it rejected a removal-fill permit for the Coyote Island Terminal proposed at the Port of Morrow in Boardman. The terminal was proposed by Ambre Energy, the Australian-based company that hopes to haul Powder River coal from Wyoming by train to Boardman, then ship it on river barges through the Columbia River Gorge, to be loaded onto ocean-going ships near St. Helens.

“This is a heavy blow to the coal export proposals in the Northwest,” said Kimberly Larson, spokeswoman for the Power Past Coal Coalition based in Seattle.

The DSL decision was much-anticipated after Gov. John Kitzhaber made strong comments against coal exports over the spring. The agency’s decision had been delayed eight times.

“As many people know, this permit application has taken hundreds of staff hours to review,” said Mary Abrams, DSL director, in a prepared statement. “From reading more than 20,000 public comments to carefully analyzing technical documents and plans, this application has been scrutinized for months. We believe our decision is the right one, considering our regulatory parameters laid out in Oregon law, and the wealth of information we have received from the applicant and the public.”

Ambre Energy can appeal the decision. If they do, a formal appeal process would be handled by an administrative law judge.

"We disagree with this political decision," said Liz Fuller, spokeswoman for Ambre Energy. "We are evaluating our next steps and considering the full range of legal and permitting options."

There is continuing pressure on U.S. and foreign power plant operators to reduce the burning of coal because of its high carbon emissions and air pollutants. Environmentalists concerned about climate change view the coal export proposals with alarm, as the terminals could assure a steady supply of coal for a new generation of coal plants in China, India or elsewhere in Asia.

For more on the permit request: www.oregon.gov/dsl/PERMITS/Pages/cit_permit_application.aspx.

Steve Law can be reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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