BOARDMAN -- Several environmental groups have filed a challenge to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's February decision to issue an air permit for a planned coal terminal in Boardman.
The Sierra Club, Columbia Riverkeeper, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and Climate Solutions are asking the agency to reconsider the permit for Ambre Energy's Coyote Island coal export terminal to handle up to 8.8 million tons of coal a year, according to a petition.
Ambre Energy plans to build the terminal to transfer coal from the Port of Morrow to the Port of St. Helens, where it will be transferred to ships headed to Asia. About 35 jobs are expected to be created as part of the $242 million project.
The environmental groups say the facility would exceed amounts of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter allowed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
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The complaint says that nitrogen oxides could have a negative impact on the Columbia River Gorge, which already ranks sixth for poorest visibility in national scenic areas.
"We're asking them to take another look at clear and express evidence that was submitted," Lauren Goldberg, staff attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper, told the Herald. "Protect Oregonians and fishermen who have to breathe the air around the proposed coal terminal."
But Liz Fuller, spokeswoman for the project, said emissions from the coal terminal will be well below what is allowed under state and federal law. She added that the environmental agency found that the project will comply with "all relevant environmental rules and regulations."
"We felt the process was very fair, very rigorous," she said. "We feel the project's merits are well documented and this challenge is going to be quickly defeated."
More than 16,500 comments were received about the Coyote Island terminal, which gets coal from Montana and Wyoming, according to the state agency's website.
The agency is working with Ambre Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers on the next steps for certification.