DEQ now wants air quality permit for coal export plan
After review, agency tells Ambre Energy it needs air quality permit to proceed
The Department of Environmental Quality has rescinded an earlier regulatory decision and will now require an air quality permit for the Morrow Pacific coal export project, citing an oversight in its initial ruling.
At the heart of the matter are the projects planned enclosures that are meant to control emissions when coal is transferred and temporarily stored at the Port of Morrow near Boardman. When making its initial decision, DEQ staff did not calculate coal emissions that would come from the coal piles because they would be enclosed.
DEQ officials reversed course last week, however, and said they would now require a permit on the determination the only purpose for the enclosures is to limit emissions, hence making them pollution control devices and not merely structures.
State regulations discount such control devices when making emission calculations to determine whether or not permits are needed.
DEQ requires an air permit in this case because without the planned enclosures the amount of coal expected to move through the Port of Morrow would likely result in the release of more than 10 tons of soot a year.
They wont be open, said DEQs Brian Mannion about the projects proposed temporary coal storage piles. But we have to say, What if this were the case? Would it need a permit?
In February, Ambre Energys Morrow Pacific project filed an application with DEQ to build its proposed Coyote Island Terminal in Boardman meant to transfer up to 8.8 million tons of Powder River Basin coal a year from rail to barge. Then, the coal would be shipped up the Columbia River with an ultimate destination of Asia.
Later that month, DEQ officials said there was no need for an Air Contaminate Discharge Permit because the projects presumed emissions would not exceed levels that would require such authorization for construction or operation.
But on July 12, DEQ staff told Morrow Pacific Project officials that, after consulting with the Department of Justice on the matter, they would now need a permit.
The DEQ development is unlikely to delay the project, said spokesman Brian Gard, as there are already concurrent permitting processes underway at both the state and federal level.
Gard said the projects enclosure systems are meant to heavily control coal dust and that he is confident the design will pass the agencys requirements once it takes those controls into account.
In effect, our design mitigates that from the get go, Gard said about emission reduction plans.
Once Coyote Island Terminal, LLC submits a new permit application, DEQ will open a 35-day written comment period and, based on demand, a public hearing.
Opponents of six regional coal export proposals united under the Beyond Coal campaign see DEQs decision as a matter of common sense.
Air issues are very significant when looking at coal exports, considering the potential for pollution, said Columbia Riverkeeper Conservation Director Daniel Serres.
Its the air people breathe, he said.
Even with the projects emission reduction devices, DEQ estimates 6.8 tons of particulate matter could still be emitted based on the handling of nearly 9 million tons of coal per year.