PGE concerned over dust from coal export project
By Erik Siemers
Concern over coal dust has prompted Portland General Electric to block the lease of Kinder Morgan's first-choice location for a coal export facility at the Port of St. Helens.
Portland General Electric Co.'s concerns over coal dust will force a $200 million coal export project to find a new location within the Port of St. Helens.
But port officials say PGE's (NYSE: POR) objections won't put an end to the project
"I can say emphatically that this does not block or kill (the project)," said Pat Trapp, executive director of the Port of St. Helens.
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE: KMP) wants to invest between $150 million and $200 million to build a coal storage and export facility at the Port of St. Helens’ Port Westward Industrial Park, creating 80 full-time jobs.
At least one proposal for the project calls for siting it within an 850-acre swath under lease by PGE, where it operates two gas-fired power plants on 140 acres.
PGE spokesman Steve Corson said the company evaluated the Kinder Morgan proposal and determined it would be unwilling to sublease property for the project.
“The main problem is coal dust and the potential for that to be drawn into our equipment,” Corson said.
The company is also concerned about the impact increased rail traffic will have on traffic access to its plants, he said.
Trapp, though, said the port has another 860 acres, and the property leased by PGE was only one of several options.
"Any time you have readily available space with easy access closer to rail, it’s like ‘Let’s look at this first,'" Trapp said. "First does not mean preferred. It was one of the options."
Kinder Morgan spokesman Allen Fore confirmed the company hasn’t identified any preferred sites within the port. The company, he said, is using the next several months to conduct due diligence on the project before filing any plans.
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