NO to Corporate Proposals to Make Pacific Northwest a Major Coal Export Region

December 9, 2012

December 8, 2012

Governor John Kitzhaber, State Capitol Building, 900 Court Street NE, Salem, Oregon 97301; Fax: (503) 378-6827; Phone: (503) 378-4582 

RE: AUSTRALIA’s AMBRE ENERGY COAL EXPORT PROJECT (subsidiary PACIFIC TRANSLOADING LLC): Port Morrow/Boardman – Columbia River – Port Westward/St Helens

There are multiple reasons to deny approval of this horrendous private project – daily moving multiple tons of strip-mined coal from public lands in Wyoming and Montana (Powder River Basin), leased at rates far below market value, a thousand miles by rail cars and barges through five states to be ultimately burned in power plants 6,000 miles distant in Asia. This project will egregiously impact Oregon air and water quality, and thus the health of Oregon citizens like you and me.

I emphasize the overriding reason to stop this project: “Burning coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our plant…The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains.”

James Hansen, Dir., NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (our top climate scientist).

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hearing in Portland, Thursday evening, December 6, drew more than 800 citizens. Except for a handful of people who apparently were paid to be there, attendees were overwhelmingly, adamantly opposed to Oregon becoming a coal export region. Oregonians clearly understand that our future as a species is severely endangered by any policies that facilitate mining, movement and burning of coal. Many came to this DEQ hearing with well prepared testimony to make their concerns known about the deleterious effects of these coal export trains and barges (and subsequent burning of the coal in Asia) on Oregon air and water quality should Ambre Energy’s proposal be approved. It was extremely frustrating for all present to discover that the DEQ bureaucrats, all of whom I am sure are competent, are only responsible for considering but one very small segment of the proposed export operation (that is, a permit application for unloading coal from trains onto barges at Port Morrow). It was also disappointing to hear DEQ officials’ admittance that they would rely upon representations of Ambre Energy, a company with a record of not telling the truth.

While Oregon citizens increasingly understand the direct connection between the mining, movement and burning of coal, and the consequential global warming and climate instability that is rapidly making our fragile planet uninhabitable, our so-called protectors of air and water quality within DEQ are confined to a ridiculously narrow focus in their consideration of the Boardman Plant permit application.

Meanwhile, rapid destabilization of our climate, largely due to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reaching 2.4 million pounds every second (Nature Climate Change journal, Sunday, December 2, 2012), demands that we humans immediately, and drastically, reduce our burning of fossil fuels. This, then, is our nightmare – continued carbon burning with nobody seemingly capable or sufficiently courageous to stop our complicity in our own undoing. This is Kafkaesque!

After this coal has been hauled by multiple 1.25+ mile-long daily trains (subject to derailments of which there have been three in the past five months) and barged along Oregon communities, inevitably spewing coal dust and diesel particulates into our air and waterways, we members of the public ultimately will be forced to breathe the mercury- and acid-laden emissions drifting to Oregon from all this coal being burned for fuel in Asia.

The deleterious impacts of this project are extraordinarily significant, clearly foreseeable, and there is no way to mitigate the many harms to people in Oregon as stated above. Another fact that was disclosed at the DEQ permit hearing was that the agency does not have any emergency response guidelines for coal-spill or coal-fire disasters while being moved by train or barge through our state; and the agency is stretched thin, having to respond to 3,000 emergency calls per year already. This being the case, it boggles my mind that the state would even entertain Ambre Energy’s proposal.

Who in your administration is capable of examining the extreme dangers to our health of this project? More to the point: Who in the world has the authority and responsibility to stop this insanity? If you or others in public office are not able to act in a manner effectively protecting the health and well being of Oregonians from private profit adventures that have virtually no concern for consequences, what is the point of having public representatives?


S. Brian Willson, J.D., LL.D


**US Senator Ron Wyden, 911 NE 11th Ave., Suite 630,
Portland, OR, 97232;
Tel (503) 326-7525; DC Fax (202) 228-2717;

**US Senator Jeff Merkley, 121 SW Salmon Street, Suite 1400, Portland, OR, 97204; Tel (503) 326-3386; Fax (503) 326-2900;

**Congressman Earl Blumenauer, 729 NE Oregon Street, Suite 115, Portland, OR 97232; Tel (503) 231-2300; Fax (503) 230-5413; 

*, 503 808-4379 (US Army Corps of Engineers);

*, 503 861-6132 (US Coast Guard); 

*, 503 757-7546;

*, 503 929-5950;

*, 503 327-4923;

*, 971 235-7643 (Oregon Physicians For Social Responsibility);

*, 201 925-8300;

*, 206 443-9570, x36;




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