Plans for coal export terminal in Oregon shelved

May 13, 2013

Energy company Kinder Morgan announced that it was shelving its plans for a $200-million coal export terminal that was to be built on the Columbia River in northern Oregon.

The facility was to be part of a series of coal export terminals across the Pacific Northwest. Kinder Morgan said the site at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie could not be configured optimally to handle export of up to 29 Mt/a (30 million stpy), most presumably destined for markets in Asia.

Kinder Morgan’s announcement means that six coal export terminals that were proposed in Oregon and Washington have now been cancelled. Developers still are exploring or seeking permits for terminals in Boardman, OR, Longview, WA and at Cherry Point near Bellingham, WA.

Plans for the terminals have faced significant opposition from residents who have signed petitions against the shipping of coal from Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana to the facilities. Opponents claim they fear the toxic effects of coal dust blowing off the trains. They have also raised concerns about long traffic tie-ups in towns along the Columbia River Gorge and up and down the Pacific Coast as trains, many as long as a mile, rumble through towns, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Conservation organizations, which have turned the coal export debate into the region’s highest-profile environmental battleground, have argued that it is useless to reduce coal burning in the U.S. to slow climate change while providing fuel to coal-fired power plants in Asia.

A smaller number of trade unions and business development groups have argued in favor of the export terminals, saying they would allow the U.S. to step up its exports to China and boost jobs along the Northwest coast.

Kinder Morgan’s Port Westward project would have employed about 80 full-time staffers in addition to the 150 jobs generated during its construction.

Company spokesman Allen Fore said an 18-month-long review of the logistics of the site concluded that it would not accommodate the project that is envisioned.

“We concluded our analysis and determined that we could not find a location on that particular footprint that would be compatible with the facility that we needed to construct,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

He said the company would continue to look for an acceptable site.

“We’re a customer-driven company, and when our customers have an interest, as they currently have in a facility on the West Coast, we’re going to explore opportunities for that,” he said.

Opponents said the announcement of the Port of St. Helens board of commissioners, which administers the Port Westward site, came just two days after the public voiced overwhelming opposition to the plan at a meeting of the Columbia County Planning Commission.

 

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