This week, communities in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area voiced strong opposition to proposals to export coal via rail and barge through a region dependent on a tourism- and agriculture-based economy. In a strongly worded resolution passed unanimously by the Hood River City Council, the City expressed serious concerns about the impacts of rail and barge traffic on the local economy, public health, and the environment. The City also went further, expressly stating that it “opposed coal export projects that entail transporting coal through the Columbia River Gorge either by rail or by barge.” The resolution describes a litany of reasons for opposing coal export, including:
- The City’s commitment “to being a leader in protecting the environment, air quality, and water quality in the Columbia River Gorge;”
- The public health impacts from increased diesel emissions in communities along the rail lines;
- The detrimental impacts on traffic congestion and air quality from idling cars;
- The negative effect on property values from increased freight traffic;
- The impacts of coal barges and trains on Columbia River recreation, a major source of income for the local economy.
The City of Mosier also expressed its strong opposition to coal export and the first proposed coal export terminal in Oregon—Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific Project—in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The letter states:
The Mosier City Council strongly opposes the proposed new export terminals which could result in an untenable increase in train and barge traffic through our community and the exposure of our entire population and our environment to the harmful effects of coal dust and diesel pollution.
Like Hood River, Mosier called on the federal government to prepare an exhaustive study—referred to as a “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement”—on the impact of shipping upwards of 159 million tons of coal per year through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is accepting public comments on Oregon’s first proposed coal export project until May 5th. Submit a comment asking the Corps to protect the public interest in clean air and water and to deny the coal export permit.