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Local tribes oppose coal terminal on Columbia River

World Coal,

Local tribes in the state of Oregon, US, have risen up in objection to a proposed coal export facility that would be built on the Columbia River.

The Umatilla tribes argue that the coal terminal, which has been proposed by Australia-based Ambre Energy, would interfere with their fishing rights.

Ambre Energy wants to construct an export facility that would ship almost 9 million tpa of coal down the Columbia River and to Asia.

The Oregon Department of State Lands has until Aug. 18 to decide whether to issue a key permit allowing Ambre Energy to begin construction on the Morrow Pacific project, according to state newspapers.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s objection is one of several opposing the project, which business leaders say will bring needed jobs when a nearby coal plant is shuttered in 2020.

Tribal spokesman, Chuck Sams, said the tribes’ position is the same as it always has been: that their treaty rights are not for sale.

“The offer is something that is not in line with the federal government, which is unacceptable,” Sams said. “That’s why we’ve worked closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers, which has a trust responsibility to uphold and protect our rights.”


Advocates for the coal terminal suggest up to US$ 800,000/year would be contributed to the tribes as part of Ambre Energy’s proposal. They attempted to publish a letter and proposal in the tribes’ newspaper, the Confederated Umatilla Journal, but it was rejected.

Morrow Pacific CEO, Clark Moseley, then published the letter as a paid advertisement in several Eastern Oregon newspapers, suggesting a partnership with the tribes based on “mutual respect, shared benefits, collaboration and cooperation.”

Publishing the letter in any publication outside of tribal membership appears to be a divisive tactic to influence public sentiment, Sams said.

Those working to develop the coal terminal have said there is a lack of communication between advocates of the project and the tribes people.

Greg Smith, who has been hired to assist the Morrow Pacific project, said that it was hard to clear up any misunderstanding when communication between the concerned parties is not open.

Tribal way of life

The Umatilla tribes are not the only tribes opposed to Morrow Pacific. In May, the Yakama and Lummi nations protested the project at Boardman Marina Park, stating coal exports not only threaten their fishing rights but also pose a serious risk to the health of the river.

Umatilla tribal Chairman, Gary Burke, said in a letter that the site is a productive fishing area, and tribal resources must be protected.

“Our creation story teaches us that we were created in this landscape, and it is our duty to take care of it,” Burke said. “We have always lived here, and we always will. Ambre Energy is simply passing through in the name of the almighty dollar.”

Further leases for project required

In March, the State of Oregon informed Ambre Energy that the Morrow Pacific project required a state land lease.

According to a letter sent to Ambre Energy from the State, after further review of Ambre’s application and the Port of Morrow dock site plan, the state discovered that a portion of the operation will be located over state-owned land and as such, proprietary authorisation will be required.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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