Larger meeting planned in early May to discuss possible coal effect on city

The Scappoose City Council on Monday delayed taking action on a resolution intended to press the Port of St. Helens to provide a thorough study on the impact of coal unit trains on the Scappoose community.

Many cities in Oregon and Washington—including Portland, Eugene and Seattle —have already come out in opposition to trains transporting coal due to the lack of impact studies provided.

The Scappoose council’s delay is intended to allow more people and organizations to attend a larger discussion and provide public comments.

“The studies need to be conducted by a non-biased third party,” said Jon Hanken, Scappoose city manager. The council suggested the studies should be conducted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Transportation, the Oregon Department of Lands and any other relevant state agency.

Seven core issues identified by the council that need to be addressed in the impact study include family and children, home values, schools, security, emergency issues, coal dust and business impact.

The council indicated it would take a position on the Kinder Morgan proposal, which involves the transportation of coal from the Powder River region in Montana and Wyoming to Port Westward, once a study has been provided.

Paula Miranda, deputy executive director at the Port of St. Helens that manages the Port Westward energy park north of Clatskanie, said such a resolution is premature because the port is still unsure about whether or not Kinder Morgan coal trains will become a reality.

Miranda also referenced impact studies conducted in 2009 for the anticipated presence of corn trains bound for Port Westward from the Midwest. The corn would have been used as the feed stock at a now-defunct Port Westward ethanol plant that has since been sold to Global Partners LLC, a fuel distribution company.

The Global Partners sale has resulted in rail shipments of light, sweet crude oil to Port Westward.

Kelly Holdings LLC sold the plant to Global Partners in January.

Mayor Scott Burge pointed out that the 2009 studies only accounted for three to four unit trains per week passing through the city.

“The impact study we’re asking for needs to account for six to 15 trains per day,” he said. “I don’t think it’s ever premature. We want to be ready and we want to be engaged in the process.”

Miranda added that although the port has been receiving monthly payments in the amount of $10,000 per month from Kinder Morgan related to the agency’s lease option with the company, the funds are based on an option contract and would be returned to Kinder Morgan if it decided not to, or was unable to, proceed.

Coal export terminals will be the only item on the agenda for the next Scappoose City Council meeting, which will be held at the Scappoose High School auditorium May 6 at 7 p.m. in order to accommodate an anticipated larger crowd.

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