Oregon Delays Decision On Morrow Pacific Coal Export Dock

May 30, 2014 — Earthfix.opb.org Cassandra Profita

There’s yet another delay in the permitting process for the Morrow Pacific coal export project. But this time it’s not at the request of project developer Ambre Energy of Australia.

In an e-mail Friday morning, Oregon Department of State Lands spokeswoman Julie Curtis reported that this time her agency asked the company for a deadline extension on its permitting decision to Aug. 18. The state and company agreed to the delay yesterday –- just two days before a May 31 deadline issued by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

“The main reason for this is because the Department needs further information regarding fisheries affected by the proposed terminal, as well as other information to complete our analysis of the project,” the e-mail says.

The Morrow Pacific project would transport coal from Wyoming and Montana to Asia via the Columbia River. The coal would be delivered by train to the dock site in Boardman, Oregon, where it would be transferred to barges on the Columbia River. The project needs a permit from the DSL to build that dock, but that permitting decision has been delayed numerous times.

The latest delay follows a protest last week where members of the Yakama Nation went fishing at the proposed dock site. The protest struck at the heart of Ambre Energy’s argument that its dock wouldn’t interfere with fishing on the Columbia River.

DSL rules say the state can issue a permit for the dock as long as the action would not “unreasonably interfere” with preservation of water for navigation, fishing and public recreation.

Members of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have submitted affidavits to the state indicating they have tribal fishing sites in the proposed dock area.

Curtis says her agency will be gathering more information until June 30 and the company will have until Aug. 1 to respond to any questions from the state. After that, the agency will analyze the information and make a permitting decision.

The agency will not be collecting any more public comments on the permit, Curtis noted in her e-mail:

“The Department believes that the more than 25,000 comments already received are adequate to understand the public’s general concerns about the project.”

Courts Allow Coastal Oregon County to Withdraw Approval for LNG Pipeline

March 29, 2014 — OPB —  Amelia Templeton —  A proposal to export liquefied natural gas from a terminal at the mouth of the Columbia River has hit a major setback this week.

Oregon courts have affirmed that it was legal for Clatsop County in 2011 to reverse its position on a pipeline connected to the project.

A 121-mile pipeline would have connected the Oregon LNG terminal in Warrenton to an existing pipeline terminus in Molalla, passing through through 41 miles of agricultural land, forest and estuary in Clatsop County.

The county commission conditionally approved the pipeline’s application in 2010, but a new group of commissioners took office in 2011 and withdrew that approval. The new commission drafted findings that the pipeline did not comply with its coastal land management plan.

But before the commissioners could make a final decision, Oregon LNG appealed, saying the county was not allowed to flip-flop.

Now the state Supreme Court has refused to hear the company’s appeal.

Commissioner Scott Lee says he expects the county to formally reject the pipeline’s application soon, and he expects Oregon LNG to appeal that decision.

“You know one of the largest corporations in the world is going up against a small, rural county in Oregon. We expect them to continue their pattern of behavior as it were.”

Oregon LNG did not immediately return a call for comment. Developers have proposed a second natural gas export project, Jordan Cove, in Coos Bay, Oregon.

Resistance to Peabody Coal Keeps Rolling

This week, the Elders Circle of the 40-Year Sovereign Dineh Nation Resistance are hosting a spring training camp on Big Mountain to build alliances across the continent and resist resource extraction.

This year marks the 40th year of Indigenous resistance by the Diné (Navajo) communities of Big Mountain and Black Mesa, Arizona to forced relocation off of ancestral homelands due to Peabody Coal’s massive strip mining.

 Last week, 11 activists put their bodies on the line at Peabody’s shareholder meeting to hold them accountable for the monstrous acts they’ve committed against communities from Arizona to America’s heartlands.

This week, the Big Mountain Spring Training Camp is preparing more people for resistance to Peabody Coal.

Sign the petition demanding that Peabody Coal stop destroying our future here.

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Oil Trains Now Delivering Utah Crude to Portland

May 16, 2014 — Tony Schick — OPB

A fuel terminal along the Willamette River is now accepting train shipments of crude oil from Utah, making it Oregon’s second oil-by-rail destination, state officials have confirmed.

Union Pacific trains carry the crude out of Utah, into Oregon and along the Columbia River Gorge toward Northwest Portland. Once in the city, the oil trains are being unloaded at a plant owned by Arc Terminals, according to Robert Melbo, state rail planner at the Oregon Department of Transportation. From there, the oil is being loaded onto ships or barges destined for West Coast refineries. The company has a contract with Chevron, Melbo said.

Investors in Arc Terminals purchased the facility in January with plans to invest $10 million for infrastructure updates. The site has 84 tanks and a total capacity of 1.5 million barrels. It is situated adjacent a BNSF Railway yard in a cluster of petrochemical tank farms between the river and Highway 30.

“We don’t have any idea on the volume,” Melbo said. “But we know that they can actually place about 20 cars at a time at that facility.”

Train shipments of crude oil have been increasing throughout the Northwest, up 250 percent in Oregon since 2012. A former ethanol plant in northwest Oregon near Clatskanie began receiving rail shipments of North Dakota Bakken crude oil in 2012. Trains also carry crude through the state into California and Washington. Several refineries in Washington recently began accepting crude by rail, and a terminal has been proposed at the Port of Vancouver.

Rail lines in the Northwest and throughout the country have been a crucial component in the recent boom in North American oil production, offering flexible routes to a wider customer base for oil extracted in regions like North Dakota, Utah and Canada.

The safety of shipping crude by rail has come under intense scrutiny, though, after several trains carrying Bakken crude derailed and in some cases exploded. Federal data shows more oil — nearly 1.15 million gallons — spilled from rail cars in 2013 than in the previous 37 years combined.

Utah crude oil is waxy, heavy and generally considered less volatile than Bakken crude. It has not been involved in high-profile explosions. Its shipment on Northwest rails is a newer phenomenon, though.

“It’s a very dynamic situation in terms of the ability to move this stuff around as opposed to the days when it was pretty much all just in pipelines. And it could go this place or that place and that was about it,” Melbo said.

Michael Zollitsch, emergency response unit leader at Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality, has said the agency doesn’t yet understand the different types of crude moving through the state as well as it would like, and that heavy and waxy crudes could pose additional challenges for spill cleanup.

Governors in Oregon and Washington have called for reviews of oil train safety, as have numerous legislative hearings. The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a handful of emergency orders designed to make the shipment of crude oil safer, the most recent of which requires railroads to notify states about the location, frequency and makeup of crude oil shipments through their communities.

That applies only to Bakken crude, however. After the federal notice, Oregon’s two U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, wrote to the Department of Transportation arguing the new requirements should apply to all shipments of crude oil.

© 2014 OPB

 

Kitzhaber takes aim at Boardman Coal Terminal, proposes to propose new statewide environmental law

April 19, 2014 –  Non-executive Summary–  Governor Kitzhaber has proposed to propose a new and comprehensive statewide environmental law. This would be the first such act adopted by a state in over 40 years according to Columbia Riverkeeper.

After years of hedging, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber proclaimed emphatically that “It is time to once and for all to say NO to coal exports from the Pacific Northwest. It is time to say YES to national and state energy policies that will transform our economy and our communities into a future that can sustain the next generation”.

The Governor stated that he expects the Oregon Department of State Lands to reach its final decision on Ambre Energy’s proposed Boardman Coal Terminal by  May 31, 2014.

At the same time, however, the Governor claims to lack the authority to do much about the darn coal terminals right now:

Unfortunately, Oregon law is more limited (than Washington state) in terms of what we can consider in reviewing large-scale projects such as the proposed Ambre coal export facility. I assure you, however, that we are carefully reviewing all of the issues under our authority, and that I will do all that I can within the context of existing Oregon law to ensure that we do not commit ourselves to a coal-dependent future.

Furthermore, I have asked my staff to develop proposals for the 2015 Oregon Legislature that, going forward, will assure that there is a comprehensive public review of the costs and benefits of significant development proposals like the coal export facilities now on the drawing boards…

“Oregon law is only limited if you interpret it narrowly,” quips Nicholas Caleb, an attorney, professor at Cascadia University and a recent City Council candidate.

The question remains whether new and comprehensive statewide environmental laws are necessary or whether the Governor could exercise significantly more authority within Oregon’s existing legal framework.

In any case, join Rising Tide and allies to give the Gov a push.

Full text of the address can be viewed here.

Coal Export Developer Challenges Tribal Claims To Fishing Sites On The Columbia

May 2, 2014 — OPB —  An Oregon coal export developer is challenging claims that its proposed dock on the Columbia River would interfere with tribal fishing sites.

The Confederated Tribes of The Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation have submitted letters and affidavits to the Oregon Department of State Lands indicating they have tribal fishing sites in the area where Morrow Pacific has proposed to build a dock in Boardman, Oregon for coal barges.

The Morrow Pacific project, backed by Ambre Energy of Australia, would transport around 9 million tons of coal per year from Wyoming and Montana to Asia. The coal would be delivered by train to the dock site in Boardman, where it would be transferred to barges on the Columbia River. The barges would carry the coal to another dock site downstream near Clatskanie, Oregon where the coal would be transferred onto ocean-going ships.

The project needs a permit from the DSL to build a dock at the Port of Morrow in Boardman. DSL rules say the state can issue the permit as long as the action would not “unreasonably interfere” with preservation of water for navigation, fishing and public recreation.

The company submitted a letter to the state Thursday arguing that its dock will not “unreasonably interfere” with fishing. It also argues that considering fishing impacts from the dock is outside the DSL’s authority for this permit.

Brian Gard, a spokesman for Morrow Pacific, says the company disagrees that tribes have proven their members fish at the dock site. He says the affidavits submitted to the state either misidentify the site geographically or they fail to show that tribal fishing has taken place in the dock location.

More Here

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Wash. Port Releases New Lease Details For Oil-by-Rail Terminal

May 1, 2014 — The Columbian —  The Port of Vancouver on Wednesday released an updated version of its lease for the Northwest’s largest oil-by-rail transfer terminal, featuring fewer censored details but maintaining redactions of key issues the port considers sensitive.

The port released the updated version of its lease (429 pages in electronic format) with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies in response to multiple requests made in April by various parties, including the Columbian and The Oregonian newspapers, Theresa Wagner, the port’s communications manager, said Wednesday.

In the original version of the lease, the port had kept secret a total of 22 pieces of information. In the updated rendition, the port revealed 11 of those 22 pieces of information, Wagner said.

One revelation: The port is allowed to terminate the lease if Tesoro and Savage fail to launch construction within four months after both parties are presumed to have fulfilled certain other contractual obligations.

Previously, the port had censored the companies’ construction timeline.

More Here

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File photo of proposed site for an oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, Washington. | credit: Port of Vancouver USA

Unpermitted Oil Terminal Seeks DEQ Approval

Blog post by Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, Columbia Riverkeeper; Phot0 by Rob Davis, The Oregonian

March 21, 2014. The oil terminal along the Columbia River at Port Westward has been operating outside the law by moving more explosive Bakken crude oil than their current air pollution permit allows. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the crude oil company Global Partners (aka “the Columbia Pacific Biorefinery”) violated air quality laws by moving nearly four times more crude oil than their permit allows.

Global Partners is now applying for a new permit with DEQ to bring 1.8 billion gallons of oil annually through Columbia County, enough to fill 50 trains per month. Submit a comment about Global’s attempt to increase crude oil train traffic.

 Public Hearing

DEQ is holding a public hearing on April 3 for the new permit.

Can’t attend the hearing? DEQ is holding a public comment period on the air pollution permit through 5:00PM on Friday, April 11. Submit your comment today!

Recent oil spills and train explosions pose serious threats to rail communities. Last year, 47 people were killed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, when a unit train of crude oil, identical to those traveling to Port Westward, from the Bakken region derailed and exploded. Additional derailments and explosions in Alabama and North Dakota of Bakken crude oil trains have raised alarms at local, state and federal levels across the nation, including a moratorium on new crude oil infrastructure in Albany, New York, where Global Partners operates a Bakken crude oil terminal.

Click here for an in-depth report from The Oregonian

4 Hurt, 400 Evacuated After Explosion At Wash. LNG Plant

March 31, 2014 — AP Newswire

Plymouth, WA  —  Authorities now say one of the four injured in an explosion and fire at a natural gas processing plant along the Washington-Oregon border was sent to a hospital in Portland, Ore., with burns.

The other three were treated for minor injuries at a hospital in Hermiston, Ore.

Monday morning’s blast at the Williams Northwest Pipeline liquefied natural gas facility in the town of Plymouth, WA, shook nearby homes and led to the evacuation of about 400 residents.

A deputy says the evacuation could last overnight.

Benton County, Wash., Sheriff Steven Keane says plans call for sending up a helicopter for a better look at the damage to the plant.

Keane says a Washington State Patrol bomb squad robot equipped with video also will be sent in, because of safety concerns.

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WikiLeaks Exposes Obama’s Weakening of Environmental Policies in TPP

ecowatch.com | January 15, 2014 — The U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries aren’t on the same page regarding environmental policies within the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, and the dissension has been exposed by WikiLeaks.

Organizations who have viewed the leaked version of the TPP’s environment chapter say it shows that the U.S. could ease up on pollution control requirements, a shark fin harvesting ban and other regulations it had previously been negotiating for. Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, told The New York Times that the environment chapter no longer contains language she believes would have ensured that more trade doesn’t equate to destruction of the environment.

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