Governor Kitzhaber and Department of State Lands Director Mary Abrams finally said “no” to coal exports. The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) denied a key permit necessary for Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific coal export proposal. Ambre’s dirty coal project would have sent hundreds of coal trains through the region, thousands of coal barges down the Columbia River, and further disrupted our climate with dangerous carbon pollution. DSL’s decision is a defining win for clean water, salmon, and our communities.
The decision deals a severe blow to Ambre Energy’s struggling proposal. The decision also marks the first time a Pacific Northwest state agency formally rejected a coal export facility. The denial comes on the heels of Ambre Energy’s repeated failures to provide information to DSL about the project’s scope and impacts. Ambre Energy would use the terminal to ship over 8 million tons of coal annually along the Columbia River and through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
“Northwest families will accept nothing less than the kind of leadership that protects our health, safety, economy, and climate,” Mike Seely, of Seely Family Farms, said. “Coal exports would devastate my business and jeopardize many other family operations and industries that depend on a healthy, clean Columbia River. Today’s decision shows that Oregon families and leaders agree: The threats of coal exports are far too risky for our economies and natural resources.”
Over the past several months, more than 20,000 citizens have contacted Governor Kitzhaber requesting a denial of the permit. In May, 86 elected officials from Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Washington urged Governor Kitzhaber and DSL to protect frontline communities throughout the Northwest by rejecting a permit for Ambre Energy’s proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project. Close to 600 Northwest businesses and business leaders have also either expressed concern or outright opposition to coal export.
More than 3,000 medical professionals and public health advocates have requested a denial of the Morrow Pacific project permit. Coal contains toxins like lead and arsenic known to harm human health. In addition to dangerous diesel exhaust from trains, barges and ships, toxic coal dust will threaten air quality and worsen asthma, respiratory illness, and other health problems. One hundred sixty-five Oregon physicians voiced their concerns directly to Governor Kitzhaber in the Position Statement on Coal Exports from Concerned Oregon Physicians to Governor Kitzhaber.
Ambre Energy has been plagued by financial questions and has made little progress in obtaining state or federal permits. Earlier this year, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced Ambre Energy’s proposal to build the coal export terminal would require an additional water quality permit, known as a 401 Water Quality Certification. To date, the agency has received a record-breaking 16,500 public comments on Ambre’s proposal. Further north, opposition to Washington State coal export projects also remains strong; this month, faith leaders and the Lummi tribe will hold a cross-country journey to consolidate opposition among key stakeholder groups who could help shape the trajectory of the proposed coal export facility at Cherry Point in Bellingham, Wash.