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A Good Outcome for Activism

May 9, 2013 – How terribly satisfying to know that yet another coal export terminal planned for the Pacific Northwest will not be developed.  Houston-based Kinder Morgan announced it is dropping its plans for a coal export terminal, to be situated near the town of Clatskanie (don’t you love the town names in Oregon and Washington?).  Kinder Morgan, a terminal and pipeline operator, investigated options near Clatskanie for 16 months, but never applied for any permits.   The intent was to ship coal to Asia from the Columbia River port.  The project’s failure to actualize means a reprieve from coal train traffic for Portland.
This is the third coal export project to be abandoned in the Northwest.  Taken together, the three proposed terminals represented up to $550 million in investment, 305 permanent jobs, and almost 50 million tons of Montana and Wyoming coal.  Three more projects await approval.  Of the six original proposals, Clatskanie would have generated the most coal train traffic through Portland.  Environmentalists opposed the trains because of the coal dust, diesel pollution, and traffic congestion problems associated with them.  As many as 12 mile-long trains would have passed through North Portland every day, had the Clatskanie project moved forward.

An additional problem encountered at the Clatskanie site was natural-gas-fired power plants, owned by Portland General Electric (PGE).  Located in Port Westward Industrial Park, PGE feared that coal dust would foul the operational parts of the plants.  (It doesn’t take a particularly lurid imagination to guess what that same coal dust might do to human lungs)!  While Kinder Morgan has not acknowledged the vehement opposition to Clatskanie that activists brought to bear, environmentalists believe it played a role in KM’s decision, says Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper.
VandenHeuvel believes that coal export is simply not a viable option in the Northwest.  Union leaders, coal companies, and terminal developers disagree.  Their stance, that coal will be shipped through Canada if it cannot pass through the Northwest, is based on concern about the jobs lost.  One might also suppose it is founded largely on concern about the money not made.  Since VandenHeuvel says he doesn’t expect any more terminals to be proposed, that concern could be quite legitimate.  Coal export has become a toxic subject in the state of Oregon.

There remain three projects under consideration, as they undergo the arduous approval/permitting process.  Two of them are located in Washington, one is in Oregon.  One of the terminals, to be sited near Bellingham, Washington, would be called Gateway Pacific and would handle 53 million tons of coal per year.  Another terminal that goes by the name of Millenium Bulk Terminals, to be located in Longview, Washington, would handle almost 49 million tons annually.  Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific Project would be built in Boardman, Oregon, out of which 9 million tons would be shipped annually.
May they never see the light of day.


With thanks to The Daily Climate.


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