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2013 review: Ambre shuffles shareholders; Kinder kills coal project

by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Anti-coal activists rally in Salem against proposals for coal transloading projects in Oregon, including two that had been planned for development at Port Westward north of Clatskanie. The past year was a big one for supporters and opponents of two plans to transport coal through Columbia County.

As 2013 neared its end, maneuvering within Australia-based Ambre Energy resulted in the start-up’s major investor, Resource Capital Funds, gaining a greater share of the company. Ambre Energy is seeking to develop property at Port Westward north of Clatskanie from which it would move coal to Asian markets.

Without Resource Capital Funds taking a larger share in the company, say analysts who followed the shareholders’ vote, Ambre would have been unlikely to satisfy existing debt. In fact, Ambre owed RCF $110 million, and the shift in  shareholder interest to the Denver-based private investment firm that would ultimately allow RCF to convert that debt into investment, hence giving it majority ownership of Ambre (“Ambre moves toward new ownership,” Dec. 6).

Ambre’s project, called the Morrow-Pacific Project, calls for coal mined in the Powder River Basin region of Wyoming and Montana to be transported by rail to Boardman, where it would be loaded onto barges and shipped down the Columbia River to a facility on Port of St. Helens-owned property at Port Westward.

Despite the internal politics, a spokeswoman for Ambre Energy said the ownership change has not affected the company’s plans for the Morrow-Pacific Project.

Also, controversial proposal from energy giant Kinder Morgan, which also proposed moving coal from the Powder River Basin to a transloading facility at Port Westward for transport by ocean-going vessels to Asia, flat-lined when the company announced in May it was no longer interested in the site.

Kinder Morgan’s project was the more divisive of the two due to potential negative effects resulting from proposed mile-long unit trains that would carry coal through the county to Port Westward. Company officials had pitched the construction of a $150 million to $200 million “state of the art” export terminal resulting in as many as 150 temporary construction jobs and, when completed, as many as 80 full-time jobs.

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