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Bad News for Big Coal: Oregon Rejects Proposed Export Terminal

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Oregon has rejected Ambre Energy's plan for barging coal down the Columbia River to be exported to China, the fourth Northwest shipment terminal project to bite the dust.

The denial of a dock permit by the Oregon Department of State Lands leaves just two proposals on the table, the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham, and the Millennium Terminal at Longview on the Columbia River.

A coal train passes derailed tanker cars of an oil train beneath the Magnolia Bridge.  Starved for markets, coal companies want to export their product to China.  Development of terminals would send many long trains a day through Northwest population centers.  Oregon rejected a proposed coal export terminal on Monday.

"We've gone from six down to two, with the two biggest and baddest remaining," said Eric de Place, research director at The Sightline Institute and a trenchant critic of environmental and economic impacts of the proposed terminals.

The proposal from the Australia-based Ambre Energy was to move coal by rail to the port of Morrow in Eastern Oregon, from which it would be barged downstream on the Columbia River to Clatskanie, and from there shipped to China.

A spokeswoman for Ambre said the developer disagrees with the decision and is looking at its options.

The Oregon rejection comes amidst ominous news for coal exporters from across the Pacific. China is seeking to move away from the fuel that chokes its cities in pollution and shortens the lives of its citizens.

"All the way from the end user in China, through the proposed export terminals in Northwest, to the mines in Montana - at every end of the journey, this is coming to be seen as a 19th Century idea in a 21st Century world," state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said.

"You can't privatize benefits and socialize the costs," added Carlyle, among the first to call for a thorough analysis of economic and environmental costs of sending mile to mile-and-a-half long coal trains through the region's cities.