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County Coal Vote Questions

Local coal train opponentswere a little surprised to discover that the Lane County Board Commissioners will be voting on Wednesday Oct. 3 on supporting the Coos Bay Bulk Terminal development and the accompanying planned coal trains. It's a pretty a hot topic, one the public has had a lot of opinions on, and the upcoming Oct. 8 Eugene City Council vote on the issue has been well-publicized. Lane County buried the vote on the planned resolution in an agenda item

EW asked Intergovernmental Relations Manager (or as he says on his Twitter profile, lobbyist) about tomorrow's resolution. Cuyler preferred to respond by email, so here's our questions and his answers.

What significance does the county commission vote have, either by supporting or not supporting the Coos Bay Terminal proposal? 

The County Board of Commissioner will take action on a resolution, which expresses their opinion, but does not carry the same weight as an order.  A resolution is non-binding and unenforcible statement.  The Port may use it as they seek to advance their operations.  As a partner to the Port, the Board has signed a number of letters of support for specific, and more general funding opportunities.  In August 2008, Lane County was at the Surface Transportation Board hearing on transferring ownership (actually the hearing was on opposing the petition of the previous operator to dismantle the line) of the short line railroad to the Port. The Board’s agenda setting team is aware the Eugene City Council will be taking up a related issue on October 8.

The resolution as worded on the website is in favor of support how was that decision made and by whom?

The Lane County Legislative Committee examined the white paper last week. Discussions at that meeting informed the content of the resolution.  For example, staff asked whether the resolution should address coal trains, Coos County’s economic condition, or the Port.  The committee’s focus was on the Port’s bulk terminal expansion proposal.  As with most resolutions and orders, staff drafted the language for the full Board to consider.  Tomorrow, the Board may choose to modify it, abandon it, or adopt it as written.

The resolution mentions things put into place to restrict the coal dust, but has there been anything ensuring that can and will be done? I believe [Congressman Peter] DeFazio said that might have to be done legislatively?

The Port’s documents are clear environmental considerations were one of three “top weighted” issues.  While the Port does not regulate coal dust standards, it appears contractually and operationally, they have committed to minimizing fugitive emissions.  For example, the site design for the bulk terminal involves covered loading/unloading.  The rail car’s being proposed are “rotary dump” with the bottom of the car being completely solid (at one of their early briefings with us, I learned that most “dust” comes from the bottom of a traditional, bottom unloading car).

It’s a pretty controversial issue, why was the public not notified? The agenda item doesn't mention coal trains, though the white paper and the actual resolution do.

The Lane County Board of Commissioners routinely considers controversial issues at its regular, publicly noticed meetings.  The issue at hand is the bulk handling terminal.  The white paper and resolution reference the materials to be handled, including coal.