PORTLAND, Ore. – In a letter released today, 86 elected officials from Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Idaho urged Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) to protect frontline communities throughout the Northwest by rejecting a permit for Ambre Energy’s proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project along the Columbia. The letter comes after it was announced yesterday that Ambre Energy requested yet another permit delay for its struggling Morrow Pacific coal export proposal along the Columbia River. The request represents the seventh time over the past two years that Ambre Energy has asked the Oregon Department of State Lands to delay a decision on its Morrow Pacific coal export project. The letter and full list of elected officials can be found here.
“Our city is very concerned over the Ambre Energy proposal to barge coal down the Columbia River for export to Asia. This area is known for its fierce winds, which have attracted windsurfers and kite boarders from all over the world, giving us an important economic base in tourism. The extra traffic and pollution in the river from inevitable coal contamination will not only have a detrimental effect on key salmon and fish populations but also on the humans who live on the shore,” said Arlene Burns, City Council President from Mosier, Oregon.“Ours is an agricultural community, and we cannot afford to have toxic dust pollute our orchards and vineyards. And if the coal on barges is not bad enough, the pollution blowing back via the jet stream from coal burning plants in China adds even more insult to this injury. This is a very short sighted endeavor, especially with the dramatic effects that we are already experiencing due to carbon emissions and climate change. We must do all we can to stop this madness and shift to sustainable alternatives.”
“As an elected official in Spokane, we are very concerned about increased coal traffic and the impact it would have on agricultural products from our community, as well as the negative effects increased train traffic will have on our first responders and the health of our citizens,” said Ben Stuckart, City Council President from Spokane, Washington.
The list of elected officials adds to a growing and diverse coalition opposed to the coal export project. In March, over 500 Oregon youth and families rallied at a “People’s Hearing” in Portland to urge Gov. Kitzhaber to stop proposed coal export projects in Oregon. Over 20,000 citizens have contacted Governor Kitzhaber requesting a denial of the permit. Additionally, over 2,570 medical professionals and public health advocates contacted Oregon decision-makers to urge rejection of the Ambre Energy permit. Close to 600 Northwest businesses and business leaders have either expressed concern or outright opposition to coal export.
“The burning of coal, anywhere on this planet, is badly exacerbating the single biggest long-term problem facing any of our cities. The fact that we are considering compromising the health and safety of our communities by shipping coal through our state is short-sighted. All of the signers of this letter are asking the Governor to step away from ‘business as usual’ and do everything in his power to keep dangerous coal export projects from happening,” said Mark Gamba, City Councilor from Milwaukie, Oregon.
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 (DEQ) announced Ambre Energy’s proposal to build the 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.
In March, 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.
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.