Ore. governor speaks against exports

Source: Manuel Quiñones, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, April 28, 2014

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) is expressing strong opposition to the coal industry’s efforts to increase exports from the Pacific Northwest.

Both Kitzhaber and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) have expressed skepticism about several proposals currently in the permitting process. But Kitzhaber’s comments over the weekend, now gaining traction, are among the most direct and decisive so far.

“First, it is time to once and for all to say no to coal exports from the Pacific Northwest,” Kitzhaber said during a League of Conservation Voters event, according to prepared remarks.

“It is time to say yes to national and state energy policies that will transform our economy and our communities into a future that can sustain the next generation,” he said.

Kitzhaber criticized the federal government for not taking a more comprehensive look at coal export proposals and Western mining, as many environmentalists wanted.

The Oregon governor also praised Inslee for his state’s decision to conduct broad and deep environmental impact statements of projects there.

Ambre Energy Ltd. wants to build facilities along the Columbia River as a way of sending coal from Western mines to Asian markets.

“Unfortunately, Oregon law is more limited in terms of what we can consider in reviewing large-scale projects such as the proposed Ambre coal export facility,” Kitzhaber said.

“I assure you, however,” he added, “that we are carefully reviewing all of the issues under our authority, and that I will do all that I can within the context of existing Oregon law to ensure that we do not commit ourselves to a coal-dependent future.”

Many Democrats have been conflicted about whether to support coal exports. They have been torn among community concerns, their allies in the environmental community and labor unions touting the job-creation potential of exports.

“Ambre Energy has been given two years to show that its proposal will meet Oregon’s regulatory standards and to date has been unable to demonstrate its ability to do so,” Kitzhaber said, adding that he will press lawmakers to toughen permitting requirements.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has already given Ambre several pollution permits. Environmental groups and export opponents are asking the agency to reconsider.

Ambre recently asked the Oregon Department of Public Lands, a key permitting agency, for more time to submit documents. Kitzhaber expects the department to decide by the end of May.