Coal export makes no sense for Oregon

Tom Kelly is the president of Neil Kelly Inc.

Tom Kelly is the president of Neil Kelly Inc. He coauthored this post with Gregg Semler, CEO of Lucid Energy Inc. and Chris Taylor, chief development officer for Element Power US.

As leaders in Portland’s clean energy and sustainable development business community, we don’t think coal export makes sense for Oregon.

Any form of economic development is a choice of how best to use scarce resources. Coal export would be a drain on some of our most valuable economic resources — commerce corridors including our rail and river capacity, our public finances, our air quality, the health of our communities, and our incredibly cherished brand as a state that thrives on being a leader in innovation and high quality of life. Hauling coal through Oregon is not the most economically strategic way to use our finite resources.

First, the proposals would bring significant local and regional transportation impacts. The coal-by-barge proposal at the Port of Morrow could double barge traffic on the Columbia River, impacting all the other uses of the Columbia: the shipment of other products, recreation, fishing, and a yet-to-be determined impact on I-5 traffic due to raising of the I-5 bridge during high water. The rail coal export proposals to the Port of Coos Bay or the Port of Longview would increase coal train traffic through cities and towns resulting in traffic delays that would ripple throughout the local roads network, would delay emergency response, extend commuting times, and cut many communities and businesses corridors in half.


Ongoing coverage of the NW coal export debate >>

Second, it is clear that the domestic coal industry is in decline. The U.S. Energy Information Administration released information last week showing the nation’s electric utilities used 18 percent less coal in the first half of 2012 than they did in 2011, and 27 percent less than they did in 2008.

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