As of Friday, November 30, 2012
Just over a year ago, the Sierra Club began alerting residents to a proposal now under way to transport 130-150 million tons of coal per year through the Columbia River Gorge — via barges or open train cars. One of the specific coal transport projects tied to that proposal is now under consideration in Oregon.
Several public hearings are scheduled for the public to provide comment to the Department of Environmental Quality about the proposed Morrow Pacific Coal Export Project near Boardman, Ore.
The project would involve the barge transport of 8.8 million tons of coal per year on the Columbia River, through Hood River, to Port Westward on the Lower Columbia, loading onto Panamex vessels for overseas markets.
Ambre Energy, who owns the Montana and Wyoming coal strip mines involved, has applied for permits through the Department of State Lands.
The DEQ is now considering three related permits: an air emission permit, a pollution discharge permit and a storm water discharge permit.
Some communities directly benefiting from the export plan are focused on economic positives, but local opponents, including Columbia Riverkeeper, cite concerns over diesel pollution from transportation and coal dust dispersion while in transit, plus smoke from unregulated combustion overseas.
A local effort to encourage public comment is under way with a local workshop to provide interested residents with additional information prior to the public meetings. Springhouse Cellar Winery will host the local workshop on Dec. 2, 4-5:30 p.m. at 13 Railroad St. The event is free.
The three public DEQ hearings are slated as follows: Dec. 4, 6 p.m. – Port of Morrow, River Front Conference Room, 2 Marine Drive, Boardman; Dec. 5, 6 p.m. – Clatskanie High School Auditorium, 471 Bel Air Drive, Clatskanie; Dec. 6, 6 p.m. Ambridge Event Center, 1333 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland.
Buses to DEQ meetings from Hood River are being coordinated via email at Peter@GorgeFriends.org.