Ambre Energy faces another setback in plans to export US coal

by Kelly Mitchell

March 14, 2013

Photo credit: Greg Sotir

Ambre Energy will need to wait another five months for a permit decision from Oregons Department of State Lands (DSL) on its proposed Morrow Pacific coal export terminal. After attempting to bully DSL into an approval and balking at the states request for more information on potential impacts, Ambre realized it was playing a losing hand. As Ambres lawyers state in a March 13th letter:

Because DSL has made its intent to deny the Coyote Island Terminal permit application known we will comply with DSLs directive and provide the requested information.

Ambre has until September 1st to consult with relevant parties and fully disclose the impacts of its proposed export terminal. However, this Australian coal upstart is no stranger to setbacks. Despite attempts to become the first company to export coal through the Northwest, Ambre doesnt have a single necessary state or federal permit.

They came close, once. But in 2011, Ambre had to withdraw its shoreline permit for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal, after a lawsuit and expose of internal documents revealed the company had deceived state and county officials about the size of its planned facility.

These setbacks are even more alarming in light of a new report that reveals Ambre Energy to be a deeply troubled company facing mounting financial, political, and regulatory challenges. With so much risk on the table, a five month delay could spell big trouble.

For the US coal industry, exports are the fire escape from a dying domestic market. Despite growing public opposition, awareness of the disastrous climate impact of coal exports, and new evidence that there may not be a long-term market for US coal in Asia, desperate coal companies are attempting to rush these projects through.

So its more important than ever that state agencies and elected officials intervene to prevent companies like Ambre from transforming the Northwest into a coal superhighway. By demanding more information on the Morrow Pacific Project, DSL was doing much-needed due diligence on this highly controversial project.

Now, its time for Governor Kitzhaber to step up and put the brakes on all coal export proposals in Oregon.To deliver that message, 450 Oregonians descended on the state capitol yesterday, Sounding the Alarm for Climate Action and calling on Governor Kitzhaber to stop coal export.

Health care professionals, faith leaders, college students, recreationists, fisherpeople, and citizens joined Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson in calling on Governor Kitzhaber and state agencies to deny permits for all proposed coal export projects, including Ambres Morrow Pacific proposal. These leaders spoke of the values that are imperiled by the coal industrys plans for the Northwest: clean rivers, healthy fish populations, clean air, fresh food, sustainable industries, and efforts to combat catastrophic climate change. At the same time that people gathered in Salem, Columbia River Gorge residents gathered in Hood River, and middle school students gathered in Portland to likewise Sound the Alarm.

Photo credit: Greg Sotir

Kitzhabers Department of State Lands has until September 1st to approve or deny this permit, which would open the doors to coal exports in the West and the resulting climate disruption. To anyone paying attention, its obvious that barging millions of tons of coal through the Columbia River Gorge is not the best and highest use of Oregons resources.

Kelly Mitchell

By Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell is the Climate and Energy Campaign Director for Greenpeace, based in Chicago. Since 2006, she has worked with activists and organizations across the country to confront corporate polluters and transform U.S. energy policy. She currently leads Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100 percent renewable energy, pushing some of the largest companies in the world to embrace wind and solar and working alongside communities to develop a just and democratic energy system.

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