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Gorge city leaders laud denial of coal terminal proposal

On May 9 Kinder Morgan announced that it would drop plans to build a coal export terminal at the Port of St. Helens along the Columbia River in Oregon.

Over the past two years, communities in the Columbia River Gorge have voiced concerns over six coal export proposals.

Community leaders are asking for detailed environmental analysis or expressing outright opposition to coal exports plans that would transport a combined 150 million tons of coal per year through the Gorge, which is a federally designated National Scenic Area.

Kinder Morgan’s St. Helen’s project is the third to have fizzled since proposals began to emerge in 2011, although other sites may still be investigated by the company.

“This is certainly good news for residents of the Gorge,” said Kate McBride, Hood River City Council member. “Our communities are on the front-lines of all of these coal export proposals and their diesel pollution, coal dust, severe and added fire and safety risks, along with overall quality of life impacts from the added rail and barge traffic.

“However, with three coal export proposals looming and a lot of unanswered questions still out there, this is not the time to quiet down,” said McBride.

“We need to make sure that the overlapping and combined effects of these three projects on the Columbia River Gorge are fully analyzed through an area-wide environmental impact statement,” she said.

Dan Spatz, a member of The Dalles City Council said, “It has been amazing to see the groundswell of concern and opposition to coal export throughout the region from my city of The Dalles to the city of Scappoose – which passed a resolution asking for further study on Monday evening — and dozens of other communities through Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.

“Earlier this year, Senator Wyden and Representatives DeFazio and Blumenauer submitted requests to the Corps of Engineers to do a full environmental impact statement on the coal terminal proposed by Ambre Energy at the Port of Morrow and Port Westward,” continued Spatz.

“Companies like Kinder Morgan and Ambre are getting the message that you cannot turn the Columbia River Gorge into the nation’s coal chute without a fight,” he said.

Last year, PGE declined to lease property at the Port of St. Helens to Kinder Morgan over concerns about coal dust impacting their natural gas facility.

“If PGE, which currently owns the coal fired power plant at Boardman, does not want to be neighbors with a coal export terminal, the Columbia River certainly should not be,” said Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Mosier City Council member. “It is a relief to know that this proposal will not be dragging 30 million tons of dirty coal through Gorge communities each year.

“With other coal export proposals still actively being considered by regulators, this begs the questions: what would the impacts be of doubling train and barge traffic? What would the effects be of increasing coal dust pollution and diesel emissions within the National Scenic Area and its communities?” concluded Fitzpatrick.

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