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Sierra Daily

Sep 13, 2012

Coal Exports Trapped in Ambre

Coal trainSo much for that fast-track plan to export coal from the Powder River Basin to Asia via Oregon's Port of Morrow. According to Scott Learn in the Oregonian,

Permitting complications have delayed the project by at least a year. . . . The projected startup date for the project is now mid-2014. 

Ambre Energy had hoped its Morrow Pacific Project would get underway next year, beating four similar coal-export schemes to the lucrative Asian market. But permitting delays--particularly from the Army Corps of Engineers--and the difficulties of timing facilities work in the Columbia River around migrations of federally protected salmon and steelhead have put the project on the slow boat.

The project was already imperiled after the accident this July in which 31 train cars full of coal overturned in eastern Washington, sparking fears about what would happen should a similar accident occur along the extensive stretch of track paralleling the salmon-rich Columbia. This led Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and Senator John Merkley to request a "sweeping environmental review" of the coal export proposals. 

That leaves Ambre with the port at Longview, Washington, where its subsidiary, Millennium Bulk Logistics, had a permit to ship 5 million tons of coal a year. That permit was put in jeopardy, however, when internal documents emerged revealing that the company planned to ship up to 60 million tons out of the port, but hid its plans, fearing that its good relations with local officials “would be lost overnight” if it revealed its true intentions. Faced with the vast scope of Ambre’s true plans, those local officials said they were “exploring all of our options” regarding the company.

Photo by kurmis/iStock

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.

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