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State agency delays coal export approval

The Oregon Department of State Lands announced Friday that it's delaying a permit decision on a coal export project traversing the Columbia River Gorge until mid-summer.

The agency was facing a May 30 deadline to rule on Ambre Energy’s proposed removal-fill permit for a coal terminal at the Port of Morrow, but deferred it until August 18. DSL says it needs more information about fisheries that could be affected by the terminal, as well as other unspecified information, before making its decision.

The DSL will take until June 30 to retrieve additional information. Ambre then has until Aug. 1 to respond to questions before the final decision will be made.

People who plan to remove or fill material in Oregon waters require a removal-fill permit. Oregon’s removal-fill law enacted in 1967 is meant to protect public navigation, fishery and recreational uses of waterways.

Controversy surrounds the proposed terminal, with environmental health pitted against job possibilities.

“Northwest families deserve and will accept nothing less than leadership that protects our health, safety, economy and climate,” says Cesia Kearns, co-director of the Power Past Coal coalition, in a press release. “The threats of coal exports are far too risky for Oregon families, our economies, our heritage and the precious natural resources we all share.”

The proposed project would take nearly 9 million tons of coal per year from Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and ship it to Asia. After traveling by train to Port Morrow, the coal would be shipped on enclosed barges on the Columbia River to the Port of St. Helens, where it would be transferred to oceangoing ships.

The Port of Morrow is one of three proposed Northwest sites for coal export facilities. The second is in Cherry Point, Wash., where the Gateway Pacific terminal plans to ship 48 million tons of coal per year. The third is the Millennium Bulk terminals in Longview, Wash. which would ship 44 million tons per year. Neither Washington terminal has received approval yet, and the Ambre project in the gorge is considered the closest to moving ahead.

Kate Stringer can be reached at 503-357-3181 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @KateStringer2

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