PORTLAND, Ore. – The Power Past Coal coalition today announced a new advertising campaign to urge Governor John Kitzhaber to protect public health for Oregon families by rejecting coal exports in the state. The radio and billboard campaign comes ahead of an anticipated decision from the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) on Ambre Energy’s proposal to construct an industrial coal dock on the Columbia River. To date, the company has failed to provide adequate information requested by the DSL, resulting in six permit extensions from the agency. Ambre now faces a March 31 deadline to submit requested information to the DSL.
“After six permit extensions, it’s time for Governor Kitzhaber and the Department of State Lands to tell Ambre Energy: enough is enough,” Cesia Kearns, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club and co-director of the Power Past Coal coalition. “By rejecting Ambre’s coal export proposal, we can safeguard our communities and families, keep our air and water safe from toxic coal dust and pollution, and protect our precious natural resources and environments like the Columbia River Gorge that benefit our state and economy.”
The radio advertisements, which are running in the Portland and Salem markets, highlight the enormous public health consequences of exporting coal through Oregon. More than 3,000 medical professionals and public health advocates have raised concerns about significant risks associated with coal exports and related facilities proposed for the Pacific Northwest. Coal contains toxins like mercury and arsenic known to harm human health. In addition to dangerous diesel exhaust from barges, trains and ships, toxic coal dust will threaten air quality and worsen asthma, respiratory illness, and other severe health problems. 165 Oregon physicians voiced their concerns directly to Governor Kitzhaber in the Position Statement on Coal Exports from Concerned Oregon Physicians to Governor Kitzhaber.
"With 165 Oregon physicians, I've voiced significant concerns to Governor Kitzhaber, also a physician, about proposals for coal exports in Oregon. Together we called for review of a Health Impact Assessment and a regional Environmental Impact Statement before any coal export permits were issued. I, along with hundreds of medical professionals, seek denial of the Ambre Energy permit in the absence of these studies," said Dr. Martin Donohoe, for Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Oregon elected officials from across the state have also voiced opposition to coal exports in the Northwest, including Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson, and Mosier Mayor Andrea Rogers. Additionally, City Councilmembers from Portland, Eugene, Mosier and Roseburg have similarly voiced opposition to coal exports. The cities of Salem, Albany, Eugene, Scappoose, Hood River, Portland, The Dalles, Beaverton and Milwaukie have expressed serious concerns or opposition to coal exports through Oregon.
Ambre Energy has been plagued by financial questions and has made little progress in obtaining state or federal permits. Last month, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced Ambre Energy’s proposal to build Oregon’s first coal export terminal will require an additional permit, known as a 401 Water Quality Certification. DEQ received a record breaking 16,500 public comments on Ambre’s proposal to export 8.8 million tons of coal through Northwest communities and along the Columbia River. The agency also announced its decision to issue three permits for the coal export project, an air quality permit, a construction storm water permit, and an internal wastewater permit.
Earlier this month, the State of Oregon notified Ambre Energy that its controversial proposed coal export terminal is located on state-owned land in the Columbia River and now requires a state land lease. The requirement to obtain a state land lease for Ambre Energy’s dangerous coal export project is yet another setback to the struggling coal export terminal.
In 2011, a legal challenge to the Ambre proposal in Longview, WA exposed internal documents showing that Ambre and their US subsidiary Millennium Bulk Logistics lied to Cowlitz County and state officials about the size of their project, claiming it would ship five million tons per year when they planned a project more than 10 times that size. Following the controversy, Ambre withdrew its permit and in 2012 filed a permit for a terminal that would handle 44 million tons of coal/year.
Last week, Ecotrust released a new report entitled “Economic Risks of the Morrow Pacific Project: Livelihood, Habitat and Recreation,” which outlines the huge economic risks that Ambre Energy’s proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project would have for the regional economy. The report concludes, “far from being a ‘clean’ project, Morrow Pacific would jeopardize vital, valuable economic, cultural and ecological resources throughout Western Oregon.”
POWER PAST COAL is an ever-growing alliance of health, environmental, clean-energy, faith and community groups and businesses working to stop coal export off the West Coast. Visit PowerPastCoal.org for more information.