Groups fight decision allowing coal exports

Conservationists are challenging the approval of a Columbia River port that will export coal to Asia.

Cowlitz County commissioners voted in November to allow a subsidiary of Australia-based Ambre Energy to redevelop a port near Longview to handle 5 million tons of coal annually.

Earthjustice on Monday appealed the permit decision to the Washington state Shorelines Hearings Board on behalf of Climate Solutions, Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council and Columbia Riverkeeper.

“The county commission rubber-stamped the permit and ignored their duty to act in the best interest of the community,” said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman. He said the county failed to consider the effects of increased mining, trains transporting coal and potential threats to human health.

Coal would be shipped from Montana and Wyoming by rail to the new terminal located about 40 miles north of Portland. It would be the first of several proposed new coal terminals on the West Coast.

“They have the right to appeal,” said board of commissioners chairman George Raiter. “I just think we did a good job on the shoreline permit, and I would expect the hearings board to find that it was properly issued.”

“We expected an appeal, so we’re not surprised,” Joseph Cannon, chief executive officer of Millennium Bulk Logistics, the Ambre Energy subsidiary, said in a telephone interview Monday.

Cannon said the company agreed to a number of conditions as part of the shoreline development permit it received from Cowlitz County, including minimizing dust from coal pile.