Oregon rejects permit for controversial coal terminal project

The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) said Aug. 18 that it has rejected a removal-fill permit application for the Coyote Island Terminal at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Ore.

Coyote Island is a key part of a coal export terminal project of Australia-based Ambre Energy. Major environmental groups and local residents have been opposing the project, saying it will involve too much pollution in itself, plus that the coal that moves through the terminal to Pacific Rim markets will add to climate change when burned in power plants. 

“As many people know, this permit application has taken hundreds of staff hours to review,” said Mary Abrams, DSL director, in an Aug. 18 statement. “From reading more than 20,000 public comments to carefully analyzing technical documents and plans, this application has been scrutinized for months. We believe our decision is the right one, considering our regulatory parameters laid out in Oregon law, and the wealth of information we have received from the applicant and the public.”

DSL regulates filling and removing material from “waters of the state” which include wetlands, rivers and streams. The Coyote Island Terminal removal-fill permit application proposes 572 cubic yards of permanent fill (in the form of pilings) in the Columbia River on submerged land owned by the Port of Morrow.

DSL first received the permit application for the terminal in February 2012. Three public review periods and eight decision deadline extensions occurred over the two-and a-half-year process. In general, the extensions allowed the applicant, Ambre Energy, to respond to issues raised in public comment periods, and to the state’s questions and requests for clarification.

In reviewing this application and supporting materials, DSL considered various factors and determined that while the proposed project has independent utility, it is not consistent with the protection, conservation and best use of the state’s water resources, and that the applicant did not provide sufficient analysis of alternatives that would avoid construction of a new dock and impacts on tribal fisheries.

The applicant may appeal the decision, which would include a hearing before an administrative law judge through the contested case process.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.