Oregon blocks major coal export terminal

Oregon officials moved to block construction of a terminal that would have exported 8.8 million tons of coal annually to Asia.

In rejecting the permit application from Australia-based Ambre Energy late Monday, Oregon’s Department of State Lands said the project would do too much to disrupt waterways and harm tribal fisheries in Boardman, on the Columbia River. The state agency has authority over projects that remove or fill material from waterways and wetlands.

“This application has been scrutinized for months,” Mary Abrams, director of the state agency, said in a statement. “We believe our decision is the right one, considering our regulatory parameters laid out in Oregon law, and the wealth of information we have received from the applicant and the public.”

Oregon first received the permit application in February 2012. The proposed terminal was the focus of a great deal of protest by local and national environmental groups opposed to the expanded use of coal and the pollution it would cause.

Environmental groups praised the Monday decision, framing it as a major defeat for coal.

But in a statement to the Oregonian, Ambre called the ruling political, and said it is considering various options to challenge it.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) applauded the state agency’s rejection of the permit, telling the Oregonian “Columbia River tribes have fundamental rights to these fisheries” and that any project that threatens those rights should be held to high standards.