Friday, March 22, 2013

State Delays Port of Morrow Coal Project Permit

The Oregon Department of State Lands is temporarily putting off a decision on whether to approve the construction of a dock that would be utilized for coal shipments to Asia, the agency says.

According to State Lands Assistant Director Bill Ryan, the department has delayed a decision until Sept. 1 to give the project’s owner, Australia-based Ambre Energy, time to gather requested data.

The Morrow Pacific project is a proposed coal barging and transshipping operation involving two industrial sites on the Columbia River. The proposed Coyote Island Terminal would be capable of unloading coal from incoming trains using the Port of Morrow’s existing rail loop.

The Union Pacific transcontinental rail line provides the Port of Morrow with a direct rail link to coal mines in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, including mining operations co-owned by Ambre Energy.

The coal would be stored in covered warehouses before being barged 200 miles downriver to a second site at Port Westward that’s capable of receiving Panamax class ocean-going vessels.

Under the proposal, the coal barges arriving from Coyote Island Terminal would be transloaded via a floating transloading facility directly onto ships berthed at the Port Westward dock.

However, the state has questions regarding impacts on Columbia River fisheries, water quality and overall need for the shipments. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has expressed reservations about the local environmental impacts of the coal shipments and the global impacts more coal burning might cause.

Ambre Energy says it anticipates shipping about 3.5 million metric tons of coal per year down the Columbia River initially and about eight million metric tons of coal per year at full capacity.