Wyoming coal port appeal rejected
October 3, 2014
Today, the Oregon Department of State Lands rejected the State of Wyoming's appeal of Oregon's decision to deny a key permit to develop the Port of Morrow coal export port on the Columbia River in Oregon. The permit had been sought by Ambre Energy, a financially troubled Australian firm that wants to export Western coal to Asia.
The Oregon agency said Wyoming did not have standing in the Port of Morrow decision because the state had no legally protected interest in the project and did not submit comments during Oregon's public comment period on the proposed port.
"Oregon is charged with the stewardship of the fishery of the Columbia River Basin and has an enormous economic stake in preserving that valuable asset," said Mark Fix, a Montana rancher and member of Northern Plains Resource Council in Billings. "The proposed coal port put that fishery in jeopardy. In addition, farmers and other shippers will benefit from not being pushed off the rails by high volumes of coal traffic."
Fix raises cattle near Miles City and irrigates from the Tongue River downstream from the proposed coal export mine at Otter Creek, as well as Ambre's coal export mine at Decker.
Northern Plains, a conservation and family agricultural group, has opposed the increased, mining, coal train traffic, and natural resource impacts that would result from massive coal sales to Asia. Landowners and conservationists have challenged the high costs of coal exports for the past three years, ever since Peabody and Arch Coal announced their intentions to mine and transport up to 170 million tons of coal for export to Asia.
Six ports were originally proposed for the coasts of Washington and Oregon, but only two proposals remain – the Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham and the Millennium Bulk Terminal at Longview, Washington.
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Coal and oil exports have recently had a growing impact on other users of the railroad network in the Northwest. Grain trains serving Montana's number one industry – agriculture – have been unable to haul Montana wheat and other grains in a timely way. Even passenger trains are delayed by oil and coal train traffic. If the coal ports are built, coal trains will easily outnumber oil trains on the region's rails.
Wyoming's coal industry has declined in recent years as Americans switch to natural gas, wind, and solar for electricity. Nevertheless, the state of Wyoming has budgeted $500,000 to litigate for coal exports to Asia.
"Wyoming would make better use of its resources by reclaiming the vast reaches of land that have been mined but have never qualified for bond release," said Fix. "The Wyoming Governor seems to think that coal companies have a right to pollute land and water that exceeds the right of Montanans (or Oregonians) to defend themselves against all the financial, environmental, and health impacts that these coal ports would cause."
–Northern Plains Resource Council