Coal export company promises $400M in economic impact
By Erik Siemers
A worker from Vigor Industrial works on the hull of a barge. Plans for a coal export facility would use barges to bring coal up the Columbia River and promise $400 million in economic impact.
Normally the notion of quick and abundant job growth would be viewed as an economic development dream come true. But in the clean-energy friendly Pacific Northwest, coal is often portrayed as an unwanted interloper that promises short-term economic gain in exchange for long-term environmental chaos.
Locally, criticism has focused heavily on the increased rail traffic and potential of coal dust pollution from the proposed developments. Portland General Electric Co. last week said it wouldn’t sublease land at the Port of St. Helens for pipeline operator Kinder Morgan’s proposed coal export facility out of concerns over coal dust interfering with its power plants.
“Coal is crime,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a noted environmental attorney and coal opponent, said at the downtown Portland rally Monday. “The moment (coal companies) disclose an honest and true environmental impact statement they will be laughed out of town.”
KC Golden, policy director for Climate Solutions, a Seattle-based environmental policy institute, acknowledges that economic figures like the ones produced by ECONorthwest become difficult to combat in economically challenged communities.
But he said the bigger picture issues can’t be avoided. By creating a pathway to access the Powder River Basin’s cheap coal, the region is making it easier for developing nations such as China and India to choose fossil fuel energy sources over cleaner alternatives.
Climate Solutions supports Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s request, made last month, that the federal government — including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — take on a thorough environmental impact review of the coal export proposals.
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