Gov. John Kitzhaber's election-season opposition to shipping more coal down the Columbia River seemed to run against a plan to push forward a new coal terminal in Boardman, where Ambre Energy would offload rail cars onto barges headed downriver.
The state Division of State Lands on Monday made a long-delayed announcement that it would deny permits allowing construction of the Boardman terminal. The decision all but halts Ambre's plans.
The state's announcement didn't get into the politics—or the mechanics—of Ambre's coal plans. But Kitzhaber has been growing more vociferous in his opposition to coal since last fall, coinciding with his campaign to seek an unprecedented fourth term as Oregon governor.
The state lands agency regulates the use of Oregon rivers and had to issue construction permits allowing the project—which coal shipments projected to be 8.8 million tons a year—to go forward. The state delayed its decision eight times to allow Ambre to respond to state concerns.
The agency said today:
"In reviewing this application and supporting materials, DSL considered the above factors and determined that while the proposed project has independent utility, it is not consistent with the protection, conservation and best use of the state's water resources, and that the applicant did not provide sufficient analysis of alternatives that would avoid construction of a new dock and impacts on tribal fisheries.
In the department's decision to deny the permit, Director Abrams stressed that the decision was reached after extensive deliberation, research and legal advice. 'We used data provided by a wide array of parties, and weighed this information against what Oregon law says we must take into consideration in making removal-fill permit decisions. We fully believe that our conclusion to deny the Coyote Island Terminal permit is the right one.' "
Ambre can still appeal the decision.
Opponents of the terminal were pleased at the news.
“Friends of the Columbia Gorge applauds the DSL for protecting river recreation, fisheries, treaty rights and the climate by denying this application,” said Michael Lang, conservation Director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, said in a statement. “The Columbia River Gorge is a national scenic treasure and should not be used as the nation’s coal chute to Asia. This decision is a huge victory for Oregonians and their elected officials who have opposed this project and called for a coal-free future for the Columbia River.”