Hundreds Turn Out For Hearing On Columbia River Coal Plan

Jul 10, 2013

Coal opponents danced, waved banners and cheered Tuesday outside a Portland hearing about a proposed export terminal. It was a quieter scene inside the meetings in Eastern and Western Oregon, where officials heard hundreds of public comments.


Protest organizers held what they dubbed a "people's hearing" outside the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality meetings in Portland. Resident Mark Hill said the department is not looking at the bigger picture.
Credit Cassandra Profita

  Rush-hour traffic sped by protesters in Portland. Cars honked in support of the coal opponents, as they rode bikes holding mini wind turbine blades and danced wearing fake solar panels.

The crowd held a “people’s hearing” outside a Department of Environmental Quality meeting. The Department hosted two hearings on the Morrow Pacific Project, a proposed coal export terminal that would transport nearly 9 million tons of coal through the Pacific Northwest to Asia.

Portland resident Mark Hill says the department is not considering the bigger picture.

Hill: “They are conscientiously ignoring the real issues: the elephant in the room about the state of our environment, the state of our atmosphere, the state of the health of the nation.”

Inside, the meetings were much more low-key. A steady stream of people filed in all day long in Portland and Hermiston, Oregon.

More people turned out for the Portland meetings – most in opposition to the coal terminal. People said they worried about regional air and water quality and climate change.

Coal supporters championed job creation, especially in Eastern Oregon.

Rod Osgood lives in Boardman. He says all forms of energy have risks.

Osgood: “Driving a train from point a to point b with coal in it, and then putting it in a facility, which it goes into contained barges, and then goes down the Columbia River and stays contained until gets inside of a ship and goes to some foreign country, to me, seems like a risk that’s worth the reward.”

At the Hermiston meeting, the Yakama Nation Indian Tribe asked the Department to deny the permits. Kristina Proszek is the environmental review coordinator for the tribe.

Proszek: “The Nation is greatly concerned with fugitive dust emissions coming off of the railcars that are going to be sitting idle at the site facility.”

She said the Yakama Nation is also concerned with treaty fishing rights near the terminal.

The Morrow Pacific Project public comment period is open until August 12.

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio