Army Corps decision could delay coal terminal
By Erik Siemers
The Morrow Pacific project is on a fast track with officials hoping to have the coal export facilities up and running by late next year. A pending decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could delay that by several years.
Australian coal giant Ambre Energy hopes to open a $250 million Columbia River coal export terminal by late next year.
That won’t likely happen if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decides to require an environmental impact statement. The exhaustive regulatory procedure could delay Ambre’s aspirations by several years.
“My understanding is that (environmental impact statements) typically take around two to three years (to complete),” said Mike Turaski, section chief with the regulatory branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland district.
The pending ruling — which the Corps could make by the end of summer — marks a critical decision point for the so-called Morrow Pacific Project, arguably the most advanced of the three major terminal proposals that involve shuttling coal from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming to Asia by way of the Portland region.
The project calls for receiving coal delivered by covered rail cars at the Port of Morrow near Boardman. The coal would be transferred there to covered barges, which would ship it to a new $40 million enclosed transloading facility at the Port of St. Helens, where it would be loaded to ocean-going vessels bound for Asian markets.
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While the project has been the subject of intense public scrutiny, particularly from environmental groups, business interests view it as a welcome economic boost. A report from economic forecasting firm ECONorthwest estimates the project could bring nearly $400 million worth of economic impact to 11 counties in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. Project officials have already signed letters of intent to purchase $75 million in barges from local companies.
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