Victory! Oregon Denies Key Coal Export Permit

by Brian Manning

August 19, 2014

Today, folks in Oregon and beyond are smiling ear-to-ear, hugging a little longer, breathing a little deeper and laughing alongside their brothers and sisters. After all, a major victory to keep coal exports out of the Pacific Northwest deserves a celebration and a special moment to reflect on the beautiful grassroots effort that brought us here.

On Monday, August 18, Oregon said NO to coal exports. The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) denied a key permit for Ambre Energys Morrow Pacific coal export project. Ambres scheme would send hundreds of uncovered coal trains spewing toxic coal dust on nearby neighborhoods, waterways, crops and fragile ecosystems.

This project would also send thousands of coal barge trips carrying up to almost 9 million tons each year down the majestic Columbia River, disrupting fisheries, salmon recovery, recreation, scenic areas, impacted communities and the climate with dangerous carbon pollution. Thankfully, DSLs decision to deny this permit provides more assurance this future will not happen.

How did this happen?

This is huge! Oregons decision is a hard fought win for the Northwest and the environment. For close to four years, communities have mobilized to public hearings, rallies, written letters and taken action to protect this region, telling key decision-makers that coal exports are wrong for the Pacific Northwest and the planet.

The culmination of this amazing grassroots effort was led by a broad, diverse and growing coalition of environmental, business, faith, health groups working together to stop coal exports. From eighty-four elected leaders signing a letter requesting a permit denial, the Oregon Nursing Association overwhelmingly passing an action report (like a resolution) against coal exports, and tribes opposed to the coal export proposal as an infringement on fisheries and treaty rights, this victory belongs to everyone. Even kids had a lot to say about coal exports!

Who is Ambre Energy?

Ambre Energy, Australian-based coal company, has repeatedly failed to provide the DSL with the required information on its projects impacts. And as the domestic coal market continues to collapse, Ambre is getting desperate as they struggle to court investors and even backing a plan to get two million dollars in public handouts. The start-up coal company has a history of lying and even agreed to a takeover by a risk-hungry private equity fund that has no interest in the health and well being of communities.

Activists deliver an eviction notice to Ambre Energy at its Portland, Oregon headquarters April 3, 2014. The Australian company has proposed controversial coal export projects that would transport coal by rail and barge through the Columbia River to Asia. Photo by Gregory Sotir

Activists deliver an eviction notice to Ambre Energy at its Portland, Oregon headquarters April 3, 2014. The Australian company has proposed controversial coal export projects that would transport coal by rail and barge through the Columbia River to Asia. Photo by Gregory Sotir

What does this decision mean for Ambre Energys dirty coal export agenda in Oregon?

The decision deals a big blow for Ambres dirty coal export agenda. After suffering delay after delay, the window of opportunity for coal terminal development is closing. Ambre continues to be haunted by financial questions and has made minimal progress in obtaining state or federal permits.

Also, recent studies show that Chinas overall coal consumption is projected to decline. China is even banning all coal use in Beijing, one of their most populous cities, and other urban areas by 2020.

With the continued market decline of coal, this project is a financial train wreck. Add that to all the other negative impacts you see why this a major win for communities and the long-term struggle to combat global warming.

Airship Over Deck Coal Mine

Greenpeace Airship flies over Billings, Montana, as part of the Magic City Balloon Festival, to highlight the risks of coal exports and mining in the Western United States.

What does this mean for the larger goal of addressing global warming?

Coal exports out of the Pacific Northwest is a make or break fight for addressing climate change – a key way to keep our coal in the ground. By stopping coal exports in the Pacific Northwest, it means mines will not be excavated and the coal will not be burned, carbon that will not be added to a planet already on the brink.

Although this is a landmark victory that deserves celebration, were not going to stop fighting until all communities are safe from the dangers of coal exports. This massive grassroots effort will continue to move forward in opposition to all the proposed terminal facilities in the Pacific Northwest (Millennium Bulk Logistics in Longview, WA, Gateways Pacific north of Bellingham, WA, and the Fraser Surrey project in British Columbia).

Governor Kitzhaber said, Its time to once and for all to say NO to coal exports from the Pacific Northwest. We couldnt agree more and this an enormous step forward!

As we fight for a green and peaceful future free from the threats of coal projects that would export climate change, we will rejoice in this win now but will continue to fight Ambre Energy and all coal export projects every step of the way.

By Brian Manning

Brian Manning is a field organizer in the Pacific Northwest with Greenpeace USA.

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