Politics Blog

Oregon denies Wyoming’s appeal of coal-port rejection

The state of Oregon denied Wyoming’s appeal of the Beaver State’s rejection of a permit to build a dock for a coal terminal on the Columbia River.

Oregon’s Department of State Lands, analogous to Washington’s Department of Natural Resources, ruled on Wednesday, Oct. 1 that the nation’s biggest coal-producing state didn’t have legal standing in the permit decision.

Wyoming’s appeal, filed about three weeks after Oregon’s decision on Aug. 18 not to issue a permit for the dock on Coyote Island, near Boardman, Ore., cited the interstate commerce clause in its argument that Oregon was out of line.

The terminal, proposed by Ambre Energy of Australia, would have exported about 8 million tons of coal annually.

“The department’s decision has harmed and degraded the state’s important and legally protectable revenue streams,” Wyoming’s appeal states.

The merits of Wyoming’s argument were never considered by Oregon. Like some local environmentalists had anticipated, Wyoming didn’t have a right to file the appeal.

Communications Manager Julie Curtis of DSL sent the following explanation with the Oct. 1 ruling:

It’s important to know what our decision was regarding – our director determines if a requestor has “standing” - Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR; 141-085-0575(3)) define who has “standing” to request a contested case hearing on a removal-fill permit decision. Eligible parties are:

1) The applicant.

2) “Aggrieved” persons: The person must have participated in the Department’s review of the project application by submitting written or verbal comments stating a position on the merits of the proposed removal-fill activity to the Department.

3) “Adversely affected” persons: The person must have a legally protected interest that would be harmed, degraded or destroyed by the authorized project. (Not by our permit decision.)

We believe the State of Wyoming does not have standing.

Note that (3) doesn’t apply to Wyoming because the “adversely affected” person must be adversely affected by the coal terminal, not by the rejection of the permit. Clearly, that’s not the position Wyoming was in.

And (2) doesn’t apply to Wyoming, Oregon decided, because “there is no evidence that Wyoming submitted timely written or verbal comments pertaining to the merits of Applicant’s permit application during the Department’s public comment period....,” as the ruling states.

Power Past Coal, a coalition of environmental groups opposed to coal terminals in the Pacific Northwest, issued a press release today about Oregon’s latest decision:

Today, the Oregon Department of State lands (DSL) denied the state of Wyoming’s appeal of the denial of the Morrow Pacific coal export terminal proposed on the Columbia River. The denial was based on Wyoming’s lack of standing to appeal due to their failure to provide comments on the proposal during the comment period. Ruling attached.

“Power Past Coal coalition supports the Oregon DSL decision to deny the state of Wyoming’s appeal of the Morrow Pacific coal export terminal on the Columbia River,” Said Cesia Kearns, Power Past Coal campaign director. “If Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming had it his way, Oregon would be forced to build dirty coal export terminals regardless of the impacts to communities, resources like the Columbia River, and fisheries. In the future, we ask that Governor Mead respect the rights of Oregon’s citizens to clean water, clean air and healthy salmon runs. Oregon is headed for a clean energy future and Governor Mead cannot force us back to the 19th Century. Wyoming has some of the greatest wind energy potential in the U.S. We fully support them on building a clean energy economy.”