PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — Oregon environmental regulators have ruled that proposed coal export terminal on the Columbia River meets state and federal water-quality standards, but the project still faces an adverse ruling from another state agency and questions about its economics in a slumping coal market.
The state Department of Environmental Quality issued a water-quality certification Tuesday to the proposed Coyote Island Terminal at Boardman, The East Oregonian reported.
The terminal would receive coal arriving by rail from Montana and Wyoming and put it on barges. Downriver, the barges would be offloaded at another terminal, and the coal put on oceangoing vessels, bound for Asia.
Shipments to the Boardman terminal could total 8.8 million tons a year.
The state land department has rejected a permit for the project, saying it could interfere with tribal fishing rights. An appeal hearing is scheduled for December.
Critics have questioned whether the project would break even on a $242 million investment, given slumping coal markets overseas. Last year, the Australian company Ambre Energy sold its North American coal assets to Resource Capital Funds, a private equity firm in Denver, after failing to draw other investors.
The Department of Environmental Quality issued what’s called a 401 Water Quality Certification that the terminal would meet state and federal water quality standards, so long as the developer meets a long list of conditions. For example, the terminal would have to be shut down and appropriate agencies notified if a water-quality problem leads to dead or distressed fish.
Environmentalists have fought the terminal, one of several new proposals for moving fossil fuels from the interior of North America for use on the West Coast or Asia.
The state of Wyoming is prepared to borrow $1 billion to pay for coal exports from the Northwest, and Wyoming and Montana are backing the appeal of the decision handed down by the Oregon Department of State Lands.