Columbia County Stands Up Against Coal

Two Hearings in One Night

On Monday, May 6th, residents of Columbia County and neighboring areas attended two important hearings about the future of coal exports in Oregon. Columbia County is ground zero for coal development proposals in Oregon, with both Ambre and Kinder Morgan seeking to build major coal export facilities at Port Westward near Clatskanie. For over two years, we have fought coal exports, and the fight took another step forward last night.

In St. Helens, the Columbia County Planning Commission heard from dozens of local farmers, business owners, and members of a nearby Zen Buddhist monastery - all of whom urged the Commission to reject a proposal by the Port of St. Helens to convert farmland into industrial land to facilitate dirty coal exports. The Commission also received expert legal testimony from Riverkeeper Staff Attorney Lauren Goldberg and Riverkeeper Clean Water Attorney Miles Johnson, both of whom explained in detail why the Commission should protect farmland and fish habitat over coal exports. Read Riverkeeper's comments here.

At one point during the hearing, a former Port Commissioner asked everyone in the audience who opposed coal exports to stand up: almost every person in the packed hearing room stood up.

Because of the large turnout, the hearing was continued and more public testimony will be taken on Monday, May 20th at 6:30PM at the Columbia County Courthouse located on 230 Strand Street in St. Helens, OR. You can also submit written testimony via email to:

Meanwhile, just 7 miles up the road in Scappoose, the City Council considered two resolutions regarding coal. Scappoose is one of the cities that would be most acutely impacted by a dozen coal trains each day dividing the town. Because coal trains would pass so close to schools, local parents and students attended and urged the City Council to take a stand against coal trains. Riverkeeper's Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky presented a jar of Powder River Basin coal that had been collected along railroad tracks in the Gorge as evidence, and the jar remained at the front of the hearing as the Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for a detailed study of the health and safety impacts of coal trains on schools, businesses, homes, and residents.

At the same time, Ambre Energy urged the Council to approve a resolution with language that supported coal barges on the Columbia River. After hearing from concerned citizens who oppose coal barges, the Council tabled this resolution, and several Scappoose City councilors expressed skepticism about any method of coal exports - barges and trains, alike.

Monday's events in Columbia County highlight the ever-growing opposition to coal exports in Oregon. Please stay in touch with Riverkeeper for information about more upcoming hearings in the coming weeks.