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Public Comment Period Added For Columbia Coal Export Plan

Nov. 21, 2012 | EarthFix
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Bonnie Stewart,
Courtney Flatt


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  • A barge being loaded at the Port of Morrow. The grain will be shipped to Asia, where coal could also be shipped. A new public comment period begins Dec. 1 on one of the permits required for the plan to barge coal 200 miles west to load it onto ships. | credit: Courtney Flatt
A barge being loaded at the Port of Morrow. The grain will be shipped to Asia, where coal could also be shipped. A new public comment period begins Dec. 1 on one of the permits required for the plan to barge coal 200 miles west to load it onto ships. | | credit: Courtney Flatt | rollover image for more
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If you’ve got something to say about a proposal to move coal down the Columbia River, you’ll get another chance to speak out.

The Oregon Department of State Lands is adding a third public comment period for one of the permits the Morrow Pacific coal export project needs to build a terminal in Boardman, Ore.

The additional public comment period begins Dec. 1.

If the terminal is built, Ambre Energy plans to transport coal by train to Boardman, Ore. From there, the coal would be loaded onto barges and shipped down the Columbia River to another terminal. There, it would be loaded onto ships and sent to Asia.

The Morrow Pacific export proposal is one of five separate initiatives to establish shipping terminals in the Northwest so coal from Montana and Wyoming can be delivered across the Pacific Ocean to markets in Asia.

The additional comment period for the Morrow Pacific proposal was added after Central Washington’s Yakama Nation asked the Oregon Department of State Lands for more time to comment on a 553-page environmental review and other documents that were submitted by Ambre Energy.

Port of Morrrow, Ore. Locator Map
Port Westward

The state did not notify the Yakama Nation when the environment review came in, said Kristina Proszek, the environmental review coordinator with the Yakama Nation.

“The Yakama Nation is greatly concerned with the loss of four treaty fishing sites on the river. They’re also concerned with potential impacts to any archeological cultural resources in the water or on the land,” Proszek said.

When permit applications come in, the state routinely notifies tribes, adjacent land owners, other regulatory agencies and others who request notification, according to an email from Julie Curtis, the communications manager with the Oregon Department of State Lands.

The Yakama Nation was not on the department’s original notification list, Curtis wrote.

The Department of State Lands set April first as its new deadline for deciding whether to issue permits the company needs to build the terminal.

The permit is a removal-fill permit that would cover the construction of an elevated dock, a coal conveyor system and nine multi-pile structures, known as dolphins, that would be used for mooring the barges.

The company’s environmental review and other documents related to the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project are available on the department’s website. In the permit application, the project is called the Coyote Island Terminal.

Ambre Energy also has submitted a biological assessment for the project.

In addition to securing the Department of State Lands’ permit, the company must obtain other state permits through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Those include an Air Pollution permit and a Water Pollution permit. If Ambre Energy builds the terminal, it also will have to apply for two stormwater permits, one that covers construction and another for post-construction.

Three public meetings have been scheduled for those permits. The state scheduled these meetings as a way to share information about the project with the public.

Public Meetings

  • Dec. 4, Boardman, Ore.
  • Dec. 5, Clatskanie, Ore.
  • Dec. 6, Portland

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing an Environmental Assessment of the Morrow Pacific coal export project. That study could lead to a more substantial environmental study known as an Environmental Impact Study, or EIS.

Thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest have called for an region-wide EIS that would include a study of all the proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest.

(Hover over markers to hear reports on coal in communities of the Northwest. Then click “website” for more EarthFix coverage. Click here for larger map view. Note: Train routes are approximations. They illustrate potential corridors based on existing lines and publicly available information.)

© 2012 EarthFix
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