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DEQ issues draft permits for coal facility


Hearings on Ambre Energy's draft permits planned July 9 in Portland and Hermiston

Plans to build a coal export terminal along the Columbia River, which include the construction of a transloading facility in Columbia County, have inched forward.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on May 31 announced it had issued draft storm water, air and water quality permits for a proposed coal export project based at the Port of Morrow by Australian coal company Ambre Energy. The company needs the permits from DEQ before it can begin implementing the project.

The coal company also need permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of State Lands.

DEQ will hold public hearings in Portland and Hermiston from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, July 9, to take formal testimony on the draft permits it issued May 28.

In Hermiston, the hearing will take place at Blue Mountain Community College, Room 134, 975 SE Columbia Dr.

In Portland, the hearing will be held in rooms C120 and C125 at the Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Ambre Energy's proposed Morrow Pacific project would receive up to 8.8 million tons of coal each year. The coal would arrive at the Port of Morrow by train and then be loaded onto covered barges. From there the coal would be shipped to a dock at the Port of St. Helens' Port Westward Energy Park near Clatskanie and transferred to ocean-going ships.

Hearings about the project have drawn large crowds in the past, a mix of supporters and opponents. DEQ informational meetings held in December 2012 drew hundreds of people, said DEQ Spokesperson Marchia Danab.

With the exception of the crowd in Boardman, where half of the audience was for the project and the other half was opposed, the majority of those attending these meetings have been against the project.

For the upcoming hearing, DEQ advises people sign up at http://oregon.gov/DEQ/Pages/CoalExport.aspx to secure a speaking spot at the public hearings, which will be filled on a first-come first-served basis. More information is available on DEQ’s website.

People can also attend a virtual informational meeting about the permits, ask a question and submit their comment online at DEQ’s website. DEQ will accept public comments until 5 p.m. Friday, July 12.

The online sign-ups will allow for up to 720 people to provide comments in an organized and efficient fashion. It will also limit the number of people who may drive long distances or wait for hours in a room, only to have the public hearing end before they have a chance to speak.