The pair said that the permitting process for the rail-to-barge facility, which has been planned for some time in Boardman, Oregon, to carry Powder River Basin coal to Asia, should be “project specific and not influenced by the commodities involved.”
“It’s pretty clear the politics of coal overshadowed this process from the beginning,” said Ambre Energy North America Executive Director, President and CEO Everett King.
The appeal against the state of Oregon’s Department of State Lands comes just a week after the agency denied a key removal/fill permit for the Morrow Pacific project, also known as the Coyote Island Terminal; the approval was needed to construct an integral dock at the Port of Morrow to transfer bulk commodities to barges for shipment.
“Because that bulk commodity is coal, it is a process that the state of Oregon does not support politically,” Ambre officials said in its appeal. “Instead of fairly evaluating Coyote Island Terminal’s application, DSL chose to base its decision on factors that far exceed the scope of analysis DSL has previously engaged in, improperly elevating special interests above long-standing, statutorily preferred Port industrial uses. In doing so, DSL exceeded its lawful authority while ignoring its legal obligations.”
The company is calling for a reversal of the decision and said that it disagrees with the DSL’s judgment.
“We designed the project to protect the environment while supporting the economy,” said John Thomas, Ambre Energy’s legal vice president. “We’ve done that, and we will prove that again through the appeals process.”
Gary Neal, general manager for the Port of Morrow, added that the permit denial creates a road block for the well-designed Morrow Pacific project and also sets a new “regulatory precedent that has the risk of shutting down future development opportunities” for the Port.
“We are appealing so that this political decision does not limit economic opportunity in rural Oregon.”
The Port of Morrow said in its appeal that it has invested over $50 million so far for the development of infrastructure to support the Port of Morrow East Beach Industrial Park, which is slated to include five docks – including the dock proposed by Coyote Island Terminal – to support its economic development plans.
Following the notice of appeal, DSL has 30 days to send the notice to an administrative law judge. Under the rule, the judge must assign a hearing date within 30 days of receiving the notice.
Also joining in the appeal fight is the state of Wyoming; state Gov. Matt Mead said in a statement September 8 that the Oregon DSL’s decision to block the port violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“Coal is the fastest growing fuel source in the world and this decision by the state of Oregon prevents Wyoming coal producers from competing in that marketplace,” Gov. Mead said. “Wyoming will continue to stand up for the coal industry, which provides affordable and abundant power to people across the globe. We support coal including efforts to innovate and work on cleaner energy from all sources.”
Wyoming also asserts that Oregon’s decision to deny this permit is based on its dislike of a specific commodity – coal – and that Oregon did not base its decision on the factors it must consider under law, he added.