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Ambre Energy to appeal Oregon coal terminal decision

World Coal,

Ambre Energy has appealed the decision by the state of Oregon not to award a permit for the proposed Morrow Pacific project – a coal export terminal to be built on the Columbia River.

Representatives of the State of Oregon said the project was not in the best interests of the state’s water resources, while there had also been prolonged campaigning against the project from local native tribes who opposed the terminal on the grounds it would interfere with their fishing rights.

Ambre Energy had been given 21 days to request a formal appeal against the state’s decision.

Everett King, executive director, president and CEO of Ambre Energy North America, said that the state of Oregon’s decision had been motivated by political discourse surrounding coal. “The permitting process for a rail-to-barge facility should be project-specific and not influenced by the commodities involved. It’s pretty clear the politics of coal overshadowed this process from the beginning.”

In the opening segment of the appeal, Ambre Energy writes:

In its Application, Coyote Island Terminal proposes to place pilings in the Columbia River to construct a new barge-loading dock at the Port of Morrow near Boardman, Oregon. Coyote Island Terminal seeks to use the dock to load a bulk commodity into barges for shipment overseas. Because that bulk commodity is coal, it is a process that the State of Oregon does not support politically. Instead of fairly evaluating Coyote Island Terminal’s application, DSL chose to base its decision on factors that far exceed the scope of analysis DSL has previously engaged in, improperly elevating special interests above long-standing, statutorily preferred Port industrial uses. In doing so, DSL exceeded its lawful authority while ignoring its legal obligations. The decision must be reversed.

“We disagree with DSL’s decision. We designed the project to protect the environment while supporting the economy,” said John Thomas, vice president of legal, Ambre Energy. “We’ve done that, and we will prove that again through the appeals process.”

Ambre Energy has been joined in its appeal by the Port of Morrow.

“Not only does this permit denial create a road block for the well-designed Morrow Pacific project – it sets new regulatory precedent that has the risk of shutting down future development opportunities at the Port of Morrow,” said Gary Neal, general manager, Port of Morrow. “We are appealing so that this political decision does not limit economic opportunity in rural Oregon.”

Wyoming enters debate

The state of Wyoming has also weighed in on the appeal, arguing that Oregon’s department of state lands decision to deny Ambre Energy the necessary permit is evidence of the department “misapplying its own regulations”.

Arguing that the department’s decision seeks to improperly regulate interstate commerce, a spokesperson for the state of Wyoming said "The Department's decision has stopped an important international commercial export project that will benefit the State of Wyoming and its citizens, based on the Department's apparent dislike for the commodity that will pass through the port, rather than the statutory factors it must consider. However, one state cannot unilaterally stop interstate and foreign commerce to the detriment of its sister states."

Appeal process

The US$ 242 million coal terminal project could create a new outlet for western coal producers, as US utilities and industry – driven by global warming and emissions regulations – turn away from coal-fired power plants.

The appeal from Ambre Energy and the Port of Morrow could face stiff opposition. According to Oregon Live – the Oregonian – Oregon Governor, John Kitzhaber, remains firmly opposed to the project and has criticised the project’s potential impact on climate, protected tribal fishing areas and recreation activities on the Columbia River.

It will now take time before a verdict is reached on the appeal, since the administrative appeals process could take several months. The process will initially be adjudicated by an administrative law judge. The applicant – in this case Ambre Energy – can appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals if they do not agree with the judge’s decision.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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