(Statesman Journal, August 7) – One of the key permits necessary for Ambre Energy to begin barging up to 8.8 million tons of coal per year through the Columbia River Gorge is up for review.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a water pollution permit for the proposed Coyote Island coal terminal in Boardman.
Coal from mountain states would be carried by train to the terminal, then loaded onto barges. The barges would travel down the river to Port Westward, near St. Helens, where the coal would be loaded onto oceangoing vessels bound for Asia.
Construction of the terminal will cause sediment disturbance in the river, and operation will increase stormwater discharges, DEQ said.
Meanwhile, nearly 8,000 people have signed petitions asking the Oregon Transportation Commission not to approve nearly $7 million in tax-funded grants that could help fund the Ambre Energy project and another project that could ease the transport of crude oil by rail.
On Wednesday, 21 public officials sent a joint letter to Gov. Kitzhaber and the commission requesting denial.
They include the mayors of Albany, Eugene, Beaverton, Hood River, Milwaukie, Mosier and The Dalles, as well as city councilors, Portland Metro councilors and eight state legislators.
Multnomah County Commissioners Deborah Kafoury and Jules Bailey also asked the governor and commission to deny the grants, saying the projects pose unacceptable risks.
“These risks include the potential for oil train explosions, or spills as a result of derailment; increased particulate emissions from locomotive exhaust and coal dust; congestion and collision along roadways and rail lines; and associated health impacts including injury and death,” they wrote.
The commissioners also pointed out that low-income and minority residents, who often live nearer to rail lines, would be disproportionately impacted.
Catherine Mater, chairwoman of the transportation commission, said the Connect Oregon project recommendations came from staff at the Oregon Department of Transportation.
The commission will consider all of the proposals at its meeting Aug. 21 and 22 in Ontario.
“My sense is there will be a large package that gets approved, and a few pulled aside with individual votes,” she said.