Friday, September 7, 2012

Portland Commissioner Preparing Anti-Coal Resolution

Later this month, Portland, Oregon could become the latest city in the Pacific Northwest to officially oppose the possibility of new coal exports through the region.

Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz says she’s preparing a resolution to oppose the prospect of more coal trains traveling through the city.

Fritz, who made the revelation during an anti-coal rally in front of the Portland office of the Army Corps of Engineers, said she expects to present the resolution during the Sept. 19 Portland City Council meeting.

“We’re looking at the strongest resolution we can get passed,” she said at the Aug. 28 rally, which attracted about 150 people.

About 20 other Pacific Northwest cities and counties have already passed resolutions either opposing coal exports outright or raising concerns about it, including Seattle, where the City Council unanimously passed an anti-coal resolution May 29.

Other municipalities that have also passed anti-coal measures include Hood River, Oregon and three Washington cities, Camas, Marysville and Washougal.

The backlash is in response to the proposed development of about half a dozen coal export terminals through the Pacific Northwest, where coal would be brought in from other parts of the county by rail, then shipped to Asia. Among the largest proposals is one at the Port of Longview, where Millennium Bulk Terminals has applied for permits to build a $600 million terminal in a bid to become one of the biggest coal exporters in North America.

Several of the other larger coal export related port expansions are also now undergoing the formal permitting process, including Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in Washington state; Kinder Morgan Terminals at St. Helen’s, Oregon; and Coyote Island Terminal at the Port of Morrow.

Opponents of the proposed terminals have raised concerns about potential rail congestion and environmental damage, specifically the possibility of coal dust escaping from inbound trains and harming the local air quality.

Proponents however, have said that measures would be taken to ensure that dust would not escape, but that the terminals could bring hundreds of temporary and permanent jobs to the region.