Energy | Ecotrope

Protesters Ask New Agency Head To Deny Coal Export Permit

Ecotrope | Nov. 13, 2012 8:26 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:28 p.m.

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Dr. Andy Harris speaks to a crowd of coal export opponents outside the Department of State Lands office in Salem.

Dr. Andy Harris speaks to a crowd of coal export opponents outside the Department of State Lands office in Salem.

Coal export opponents gathered at the Oregon Department of State Lands office in Salem today to ask the agency’s new director to deny a key permit for the Morrow Pacific coal export project.

Morrow Pacific needs a permit from the state to install a dock for coal barges in Boardman, where the project would transfer coal arriving by rail to barges at the Port of Morrow. The coal would later be transferred to ocean-going ships at an existing dock near Clatskanie.

Lucy Sedgwick, an organizer with the Sierra Club, said State Lands director Mary Abrams can stop the project by denying the permit.

“She is the decision-maker and she has received 16,000 public comments in the last 30 days and seen all these people,” said Sedgwick. “So I think the public really has spoken, and now it’s up to her to do the right thing.”

Abrams, who started as the new director of DSL on Nov. 1, came out and thanked the crowd for coming. She said her office will have a decision on the permit by Dec. 12.

DSL has received roughly 20,000 comments on the Morrow Pacific permit application from both environmental groups and individuals who oppose the project and from companies, chambers of commerce and individuals who support it. The permit itself would allow the company to install more than 500 cubic yards of pilings for a dock in the Columbia River.

Before approving the permit, the state has to consider the public need for the pilings, the economic benefits and the costs of not installing the pilings, the state’s environmental policies, and public health and safety, among other considerations.

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