Report claims developer of proposed coal terminals is 'awash in red ink'

A new report questions the financial viability of one of the companies behind proposed coal export facilities in the Northwest.

A new report questions the financial viability of one of the companies behind proposed coal export facilities in the Northwest. 

Ambre Energy, the Australian company leading the charge on two proposed coal export facilities near Portland, is in a precarious financial position and needs $1 billion in new capital to make the projects work, according to a report released Wednesday by a Seattle-based environmental policy group.

"Ambre Energy is a very dicey proposition for investors," Alan Durning, Sightline's executive director, said in a news release. "State and local governments and potential business partners should be aware of the severe financial risks the company carries."

Brian Gard, a Portland-based spokesman for Ambre, cautioned that the report from Sightline — a group he said is closely aligned with the Sierra Club and its anti-coal campaigns — is far from independent objective research.

Over the past year, around a half-dozen proposals have emerged across the Pacific Northwest for terminals that would take in coal from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming for transport to Asian markets.

Ambre is leading the two biggest projects in the Portland area. One is the $159 million "Morrow Pacific Project," which involves transporting coal by rail to the Port of Morrow near Boardman, where it would be put on barges, shipped down the Columbia River to the Port of St. Helens and transferred to ocean carriers.

Ambre also owns a 62 percent stake in Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, an expected $600 million project to turn a former Alcoa smelter near Longview, Wash., into a private coal export terminal. The remaining 38 percent is held by St. Louis-based Arch Coal Inc.

The Sightline Institute catalogued a laundry list of financial hurdles facing Ambre, making the company a risky bet for both investors and state and federal regulatory officials that would have a say in approving the already controversial coal projects.

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