Around 800 people gathered in Portland last night for an Oregon Department Environmental Quality informational meeting on the Morrow Pacific coal export project.
At a demonstration before the event, a man dressed as Santa Claus handed out small plastic bags of coal bits he said were collected from the railroad tracks in the Columbia River Gorge.
"Would you like some coal?" he asked passersby. "Here you go. That's the gift that keeps on giving from Ambre Energy."
Ambre Energy is the backer of a coal export proposal on the Columbia River. Santa said the company "is on my naughty list."
"We're telling Ambre Energy their pollution of the coal dust into the air is going to affect future generations," he said. "The spirit of Christmas is all about the children. If this coal dust collected from the railroad tracks gets into the water and gets burned in the air, the continued acidification of the ocean is going to end up killing all the sea life. We can't afford to leave that kind of legacy to our children. That's why we're protesting coal exports."
The majority of the people attending the DEQ meeting appeared to be opposed to the Morrow Pacific project, which would bring coal by train into the Port of Morrow in Boardman. There, it would be transferred to barges on the Columbia River.
The coal would be transferred from the barges to ships at a dock near Clatskanie before being exported to Asia.
There were also dozens of people supporting Ambre Energy at the meeting, many of whom work for the two companies that would be building barges for the project.