DEQ hearing on coal plan to draw 500 opponents

Coal protesters are expected to show up in force at a hearing this week in Clatskanie.

Coal protesters are expected to show up in force at a hearing this week in Clatskanie.

Opponents of a proposed Columbia River coal export terminal said they expect several hundred people to speak out against the project during permit hearings this week before the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The DEQ in early November announced it would hold three public meetings — in Boardman Tuesday, Clatskanie on Wednesday, and Portland on Thursday — to take questions on permit applications submitted from Australian coal company Ambre Energy for its Morrow Pacific export terminal proposal for the Port of Morrow in Boardman.

Power Past Coal, an opposition coalition that includes the environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, on Monday said they expect "several hundred"to speak against the project in Clatskanie on Wednesday and as many as 500 in Portland on Thursday.

The project is considered the furthest along of a number of coal export facilities being proposed in the Pacific Northwest to handle up to 8.8 million tons of coal per year from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming bound for Asia.

The Morrow Pacific project would unload coal at the Port of Morrow near Boardman, send it by barge to a new transloading facility at the Port of St. Helens that would transfer it onto ocean-going vessels.

The project got some bad news last month when the Oregon Department of State Lands said it would hold off until April to make a decision on a key permit that many had expected would be issued this month.

Opposition to the coal export proposals is focused primarily environmental risks associated with the transport and burning of coal. Proponents, though, contend that the economic benefits of the projects are too big to pass up.

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