Ambre appeals denial of permit for Oregon coal export project

Ambre Energy and the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon, have filed appeals against a recent decision made by Oregon’s Department of State Lands (DSL) to reject a permit for Ambre’s coal export project.

LDSL denied a removal/fill permit for the Morrow Pacific project, a proposed coal export facility. The permit is needed to construct a dock at the Port of Morrow to transfer a bulk commodity, coal, from rail to barges that would then take the coal downriver to a deepwater loading facility that would put that coal on ships for export.

“The permitting process for a rail-to-barge facility should be project-specific and not influenced by the commodities involved,” said Everett King, executive director, president and CEO of Ambre Energy North America. “It’s pretty clear the politics of coal overshadowed this process from the beginning.”

Ambre’s Coyote Island Terminal proposes to place pilings in the Columbia River to construct a new barge-loading dock at the Port of Morrow. Said the appeal: “Instead of fairly evaluating Coyote Island Terminal’s application, DSL chose to base its decision on factors that far exceed the scope of analysis DSL has previously engaged in, improperly elevating special interests above long-standing, statutorily preferred Port industrial uses. In doing so, DSL exceeded its lawful authority while ignoring its legal obligations. The decision must be reversed.”

“We disagree with DSL’s decision. We designed the project to protect the environment while supporting the economy,” said John Thomas, VP of legal, Ambre Energy. “We’ve done that, and we will prove that again through the appeals process.”

“Not only does this permit denial create a road block for the well-designed Morrow Pacific project – it sets new regulatory precedent that has the risk of shutting down future development opportunities at the Port of Morrow,” said Gary Neal, general manager, Port of Morrow. “We are appealing so that this political decision does not limit economic opportunity in rural Oregon.”

In the opening segment of the appeal the Port of Morrow writes: “As the second largest port in the State of Oregon, the Port of Morrow must be able to enter into leases for development of its lands without the State unduly interfering with the Port of Morrow’s economic decisions. The Port of Morrow has invested over $50 million in development of infrastructure to support the Port of Morrow East Beach Industrial Park, which is slated to include five docks – including the dock proposed by Coyote Island Terminal – to support the Port of Morrow’s economic development plans. The dock is slated to be constructed in an area specifically set aside by the United States Army Corps of Engineers for port industrial development, and will not interfere with fishing.”

Following the notice of appeal, DSL has 30 days to send the notice to an administrative law judge. Under the rule, the judge must assign a hearing date within 30 days of receiving the notice.

Ambre Energy Limited is a privately held company with predominantly Australian and U.S. shareholders. It is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Australian headquarters located in Brisbane. Ambre Energy is developing new port infrastructure in the U.S. to facilitate an emerging coal export and marketing business, as well as operating and co-owning U.S. thermal coal mines, including the Decker mine in Montana’s end of the Powder River Basin.

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.