The coal trains that might be heading through Eugene have hit at least one obstacle, and it’s a wet one. In order to export coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG), both controversial fossil fuels, the Port of Coos Bay needs to dredge and deepen its channel. On Jan. 19 a coalition of groups from Coos Bay residents to environmental organizations filed an appeal of the Oregon Department of State Lands’ (DSL) December decision to issue a dredging permit.
According to Dan Serrres of Columbia Riverkeeper, the permit allows for the largest dredging project in an estuary the state has ever approved. The groups, represented by Earthjustice, point out that while the permit to dredge was originally sought to develop an LNG import terminal, that proposal has now become an export terminal, and it’s still unknown what coal company is vying to export 6 to 10 million tons of coal out of Coos Bay a year (see EW’s cover story, Coal Train, 1/19).
David Petrie, a Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw tribal member and Coos Waterkeeper, says in a statement, “This destructive project is unnecessary and damaging to the surrounding community.” According to Petrie, industries that depend on the health of the estuary and marine life, such as oyster farms and salmon fisheries, would be negatively affected by the dredging.
The groups, which include the Sierra Club and Climate Solutions as well as Coos Waterkeeper, point out that the dredging could not only hurt local fisheries, but recreational boaters, and that the coal trains and LNG pipelines that would send the fossil fuels to the port also have health and environmental repercussions such as pipeline spills and explosions from the gas pipeline and lung damaging coal dust from the trains.
Among its arguments, the appeal says that the state didn’t adequately evaluate the environmental damage from dredging and that the DSL failed to consider alternatives to the use of the terminal to export coal or LNG.