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DSL Says No to Permit for Coal Export Terminal

August 21, 2014

Earlier this week, Oregon’s Department of State Lands (DSL) issued its decision on a controversial coal export terminal proposed to be built along the Columbia River. After two and a half years of analysis, DSL denied Ambre Energy North America’s application for the Coyote Island Terminal at the Port of Morrow in Boardman on August 18.

Ambre Energy’s application proposed permanently filling 572 cubic yards in the Columbia River with pilings on submerged land owned by the Port of Morrow. These pilings would help support a structure that would be used for loading Columbia River barges with coal for expert to Asia. The application was initially submitted in February 2012. Due to the controversy surrounding coal, DSL received an estimated 20,000 comments during three public comment periods. DSL also allowed eight decision deadline extensions before its decision, to allow Ambre Energy to respond to public comments and to the State’s questions and requests for additional information.

In reaching its decision, DSL considered the public need for the project, and the social, economic or other public benefits likely to result from the proposed fill, and economic costs to the public if the fill is not accomplished. It concluded that there is little, if any public need for the private commercial project. DSL recognized some economic benefit to the local communities, but found those potential benefits inconclusive in light of conflicting evidence regarding social, economic and other benefits. It also noted potential adverse impacts such as impacts to fisheries, public health and drinking water sources from the proposed fill. DSL also considered the fact that no information was submitted indicating an economic cost to the public if the fill is not accomplished.

DSL also considered existing alternatives that would not involve filling waters of the state. DSL found that Ambre Energy failed to provide adequate rationale for choosing this alternative, which has an impact to the waters, as opposed to other alternatives with no or less impact.

Additional considerations included: whether the proposed fill conforms to sound policies of conservation and would not interfere with public health and safety; whether it is in conformance with existing public uses of the waters and uses designated for adjacent land; and whether the applicant provided all practicable mitigation to reduce the adverse effects of the proposed fill or removal (on the waterway and the fisheries). On these factors, like the earlier considerations, DSL’s overall concern was with impacts to the fishery resulting from the project, combined with a lack of any concrete mitigation of those impacts.

Ambre Energy has until September 8 to request a hearing before an administrative law judge to appeal the permit denial.

If you have any questions, please contact the author of this article, Kate Moore at KMoore@dunncarney.com.

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