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Oregon coal terminal dealt severe blow

World Coal,

Ambre Energy’s request for a permit to build a coal export terminal on the Columbia River in Oregon has been dealt a severe blow, as the US state denied the permit.

Representatives of the State of Oregon said the project was not in the best interests of the state’s water resources.

The announcement comes just over a month after local native tribes said they opposed the terminal, because they feared it would interfere with their fishing rights.

The coal export terminal would have unloaded coal from incoming trains and stored it in warehouses, before sending the coal 200 miles downriver, via barge, to the Port. The second terminal would then have sent the coal via ocean-going vessels to supply Asian coal markets.

Ambre Energy had hoped the facility would transport 8 million tpa of coal.

Coal terminal impact

In a statement, Oregon's Department of State Lands said the project "is not consistent with the protection, conservation and best use of the state's water resources."

The department also said that Australia-based Oregon did not provide sufficient analysis of alternatives that would have avoided the construction of a new dock and its impacts on tribal fisheries, according to Reuters.

Advocates of the coal terminal have suggested that local tribes could receive up to US$ 800 000/year in compensation for the construction of the terminal.

Political decision

A spokeswoman for Ambre said the company disagreed with the "political decision" and said it was evaluating its next steps, including the full range of legal and permitting options.

Ambre has 21 days to request a formal appeal of the decision.

The company has previously attacked US government agencies for their role in the so called “war on coal”. For example, in a statement issued in April, Ambre Energy said that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed environmental regulations “will effectively ban building new efficient coal power plants needed to ensure that [the US] can maintain a diverse, reliable and affordable supply of electricity”.

Local businesses have also said Ambre Energy’s coal terminal is vital in bringing jobs to the area when a local Oregon coal-fired power plant is closed in 2020.

However, the department of state lands remained resolute in its verdict. "From reading more than 20,000 public comments to carefully analysing technical documents and plans, this application has been scrutinised for months," agency director, Mary Abrams, said. "We believe our decision is the right one."

What future for coal terminals?

Eyes will now turn to Ambre Energy, to see if the company appeals the decision not to award the construction permit. However, attention will also be drawn to two further coal export terminals, which have been proposed in the region. In an area of the US still recovering from a deep recession, such infrastructure could bring vital revenue and employment. 

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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