A proposed Eastern Oregon coal project recently picked up the support of a neighboring county.
Umatilla County Commissioners Larry Givens and Dennis Doherty agreed Wednesday to have the county write the U.S. Corps of Engineers in support of the Morrow Pacific project, a coal transfer and loading facility on the Columbia River in neighboring Morrow County.
The commissioners gave the thumbs up after a presentation by Greg Smith on behalf of Ambre Energy, an Australian-based energy company planning a $110 million facility at the Port of Morrow.
Smith, R-Heppner, represents state House District 57, which includes Union, Wallowa, Umatilla and Morrow counties. Smith works in economic development and said he represents Ambre as a private businessman.
Ambre, with a U.S. headquarters in Salt Lake City, plans to move 3.5 million metric tons of coal per year from the its strip mines in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming to the Port of Morrow on the Columbia River. At the port, the coal would be transfered from storage buildings by enclosed conveyers to barges and then downriver to the Port of St. Helens. There, it would be loaded on oceangoing vessels and shipped to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The company hopes to begin operations by mid-2013 and ultimately move as much as 8 million metric tons a year.
The company needs a permit from the Corps of Engineers to build the loading structure at the Port of Morrow. He said because of the enclosed structures, no air or water permits from the state will be necessary.
Ambre would contribute 10 cents per ton of coal moved through the port to Morrow County schools, approximately $350,000 a year but as much as $800,000 a year, Smith said.
The company seeks no tax abatement for approximately $750,000 a year in taxes.
“They have asked for zero assistance,” Smith said.
Finally, Smith said, the Port of Morrow anticipates an additional $800,000 to $900,000 in loading fees per year from the project.
The coal shipments also mean a “significant” increase in rail traffic through the Hinkle yard in Hermiston.
Ambre claims it would create 25 jobs with wages and benefits of $2.7 million per year with average salaries of $50,000 to $90,000.
Smith acknowledged the controversial nature of the coal industry, but he said Ambre is committed to “trying to do this right.”
He told commissioners the Morrow Pacific project is one of eight proposed facilities in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, but “this is the only one” where all storage and loading is totally enclosed.
Smith said he would meet with anyone supporting or in opposition to the facility. He said he had previously met with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in an effort to gain its support and intended to meet with them again.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.-->-->-->-->
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