12 December 2012 by Published in: News No comments yet

Coal Opponents, Supporters Speak at Hearing

ABOUT 50 “NO COAL” DEMONSTRATORS gathered outside the entrance to the Clatskanie Middle/High School auditorium on the evening of Dec. 5 before a public hearing and information session hosted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on the proposed Ambre Energy Morrow Pacific project. Over 150 people were in attendance at the height of the four-hour session in the auditorium. (See the story on page 1). Chief Photos by Deborah Steele Hazen

Mayor, Union Officials, Industry Leaders Back Coal Exports, Others Oppose

by Adam J. Wehrley

Although the questions and comments were dominated by opponents to Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific coal export project, a raising of hands showed opinion divided almost evenly between the approximately 150 people at an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hearing Dec. 5 in the Clatskanie Middle High School auditorium.

Hearings were held last week in Boardman, Clatskanie and Portland to give the public opportunity to ask questions and make comments about air quality and storm water permits the DEQ may issue for the project.

The DEQ specifically is handling permits for the Ambre Energy facility proposed for the Port of Morrow near Boardman, which will transfer coal from trains to covered barges prior to transporting it to Port Westward,  the Port of St. Helens-owned  industrial site north of Clatskanie,  where it will be loaded on to ocean-going vessels via an enclosed conveyor system.

DEQ air quality permit writer Mark Fisher said the the DEQ has not yet determined whether to require permits for the Port Westward end of the project.

Based on techniques developed by the federal Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA), the DEQ estimated that  Ambre’s Port of Morrow facility would release between 200 and 300 pounds of particulates into the atmosphere per year. Fisher explained that permits are not normally required for sites releasing less than one ton per year. Further assessments are required normally only for projects releasing more than 10 tons.

When a facility is proposed to release more than 250 tons of particulates into the air per year an air quality accumulation study is required, Fisher said, although permits may still be granted.

When asked to compare the Boardman facility to something like automotive emissions, Fisher said that residential woodstoves put out .03 tons (60 pounds) of particulates per year. Based on these figures, the estimates of particulate emissions per year at Ambre’s proposed Boardman facility are approximately equivalent to five woodstoves.

Although acknowledging that the proposed study was below the normal permitting requirements, Fisher stated that the DEQ is requiring the permit to ensure that Ambre implements the emission control practices planned.

He said that the DEQ will hold Ambre to a zero visible emissions standard and any visible particles would trigger action on the DEQ’s part. “Those requirements will be in the permits,” said Fisher.

In response to several question, Fisher assured the public that the covering of barges, coal conveyors and storage facilities were an integral part of the permit application and would be required if the permit is granted.

DEQ northwest region administrator Nina DeConcini facilitated the hearing and reminded those present that if a project met all the state regulations, the DEQ was required to issue the permit.

It was also explained that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of State Lands are handling permits for other aspects of the project.

Some of the coal opponents in the audience urged the DEQ to go beyond its normal permitting process, and consider the overall question of coal export’s contribution to “global warming” and global air quality.

Columbia Riverkeepers Lead Opposition

Brent Vandenheuvel of the Columbia Riverkeepers, which has led much of the opposition to the project, stated “Oregon is now a leader in toxic pollution standards. It’s discouraging to hear DEQ deny it has authority (to deny the permits even if the project meets the requirements). The DEQ needs to use the authority it has. Take a stand, be aggressive. Make us proud!” He also said, “The elephant in the room is coal export (in general). It’s insane not to talk about coal export, trains, barges, the health of our children. It’s absolutely imperative that DEQ consider Columbia County (the Port Westward end of the Morrow Pacific proposal) in the permits and deny them for the major part of this project.”

The question of the danger of barge fires was also raised by several opponents, along with responsibility for cleanup should a barge sink. Scott Smith of the DEQ’s Portland emergency response team said that there are fire response vessels stationed in Portland, but that by their nature all emergencies differ and so the response would have to be determined at the time.

Later in the hearing, Paul Langner of Rainier, a 23- year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard working primarily in waterways management, highlighted the safety and efficiency of barge shipping compared to other forms of transportation. “The marine highway system is strong, healthy, has untapped capacity and is the most environmentally friendly method to transport goods,” said Langner.

Figures he provided show that a barge moves a ton of cargo 576 miles per gallon of fuel burned, compared to 413 miles for trains or 155 miles for trucks. “One barge tow replaces 216 rail cars or 1050 tractor-trailer rigs,” he pointed out.

Regarding safety, Langner cited studies showing that “For every one accident in the marine sector, the rail sector experiences 125.2 accidents; the truck/highway sector experiences 2171.5 accidents.”

Smith described the possibility of spontaneous combustion causing a fire at one of the facilities, “remote.”

“Our permitting process does not prohibit growth, but they would need to permit additional volume.” said Fisher in response to questions about Ambre shipping quantities over the planned 8.8 million tons per year. “The volume of coal is a very important parameter in the permit” added Fisher.

Many of the opponents were concerned with the use of coal in general and climate change caused by the consumption of fossil fuels, as well as the effects of coal dust on human health.

“This is one of the worse ideas I’ve heard to have these coal projects come through,” said Darrel Whipple, who lives between Rainier and Clatskanie, and is a member of a group called Clean Columbia County. “I am concerned about a world that may not be as habitable as the one we’ve been living in.”

A retired nurse who said she lived approximately four miles  from the proposed facility stated, “it will not be possible to have clean air and water if we have coal. Coal is a crime. It is a degradation of air, water and land. It causes disease and death of people who are sickened by respiratory illnesses (caused by coal dust).” The Ambre Energy proposal to barge coal to Port Westward, she said, is “the camel’s nose under the tent, trains will follow. It’s only a question of time. Will you allow these offenses to be perpetuated under your watch,” she asked the DEQ representatives. “I say no, no and no to this scheme.”

Proponents Speak

Backers of the coal exports included Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl, representatives from area labor unions and industry.

Jodi Guetzloe Parker of the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council said, “With today’s technologies and standards we feel strongly that we can have these projects and uphold our environmental standards.”

Representing Tidewater Barge Lines which would tow barges used in coal transport, Greg Zanavich assured the public that the technology used was proven and similar to grain transport vessels used on the Columbia. He also said that Tidewater is confident that the 8.8 million tons which would be transported under Ambre’s proposal would not cause problems regarding the shipping capacity of the river.

Opponents claimed that covering barges is an untested technology and would be subject to increased risk of fire. However, Zanavich explained that, “Nobody else will go through the expense of covering barges” because it has been considered unnecessary, but Ambre Energy is going to great lengths to ensure the lowest emissions possible.

Clatskanie High School alumnus Kyle Mackey, president of the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Central Labor Council, said he was at the hearing, “to talk about jobs.” He called Clatskanie a “great community” that lacked job opportunities, “It’s a good place to raise a family, but not a good place to find work. Coal is not as bad as a lot of people are saying. The reward is greater than the risk and negative impact. All labor in our jurisdiction is behind the project,” Mackey said.

Testifying after hours of input primarily from coal opponents, Mayor Pohl answered the question, “Why aren’t more people here to testify in support of this propject? People just kind of give up in the face of all this opposition. They are depending on you (the DEQ) for logical answers. I am speaking for a good many of the people of Clatskanie.”

In a written statement Pohl said, “There is a demonization of coal that is nation-wide. However, upon scrutiny of this issue and reading the science, there are certainly questions on whether this is based on scientific fact or is based on philosophical objections. I have reviewed the proposal for the Boardman site and believe that all caution and care is being taken to assure a minimum of pollution or particulates in that area as well. The greater Clatskanie Community has a vested interest in what industrial energy projects may develop at Port of St. Helens property at Port Westward.

“After doing the research, my bottom line is always jobs and the economic health of this community. We have been in the cross-hairs of dissenters of any power related development in this area. Oregon has the reputation at this point of not being friendly to energy projects due to complicated regulations and delays in approval. This, on top of maneuvering around outspoken environmental groups, is leaving Oregon at the bottom of the list for economic development of many kinds. Decisions cannot be made due to the popularity or unpopularity of a project nor on testimony of individuals pertaining to it. Your decision must be based on compliance with state laws, standards and regulations…While it is always good and right to hear testimony and opinion, decisions must be based on fact.” concluded Mayor Pohl.

Rainier Schools to Cut Two Days in June

by Adam J. Wehrley

The 2012-13 school year will be cut short by two days for Rainier students, according to an announcement by Superintendent Michael Carter at the Rainier school board’s monthly meeting Monday, Dec. 10.

The cutting of two days of instruction will save the district approximately $70,000, explained district finance director Lil Guisinger. The last day of school had been scheduled for June 12. The date is now June 10, pending any snow days which may be added if weather causes school closures.

Carter announced that he had informed the teachers’ union of the cuts, which were made necessary by projected budget shortfalls. He also explained that other school districts have been cutting days to meet similar budget restrictions, but Rainier had been able to avoid doing so until now.

He told the school board that increased costs related to the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and other roll-up costs are estimated to cost the district $543 per student, about $600,000 over all.

Guisinger said that a district spending freeze had been implemented.

In additional cost-saving efforts, Carter as asked Portland Habilitation Center (PHC) to draw up a proposal for cutting $100,000 from the contracted janitorial services provided to the district. Currently, the PHC contract is for $250,000 per year.

A request for possible cuts was also made to Mid-Columbia (MidCo) bus company, which provides student transportation.

Peeling Pool Paint

Carter reported that the swimming pool paint that was applied earlier this fall is peeling and bubbling despite using the supplier’s recommended product and letting it cure 10 days rather than the minimum six. Samples of the paint have been sent to a laboratory for testing. The project conducted by volunteers had a cost of $6075.

“We did everything right. I hope they’ll pay for it.” said Carter, while explaining that he was working with the supplier to rectify the problem. Carter stated the district used all the recommended procedures in applying the paint.

With the high school swim season in full swing repairs cannot be made immediately, but the flaking paint could clog filters, forcing the district to close the pool even before the end of the swim season.

Grants Received

The board voted unanimously to approve a budget resolution which increases appropriations in the special revenue fund by $14,673, reflecting a grant received for a physical education program (PEP). The new grant is in addition to a $269,899 PEP grant received earlier. The additional appropriation will fund a “Kids in the Kitchen” after-school cooking class and a “Hoops Gardens” program to grow produce.

Overall, the PEP program is aimed at establishing a “comprehensive wellness program.” Portions of the grant have previously gone towards exercise equipment and staff resources for implementing the program.

Sharing Update

Carter reported on a Dec. 4th meeting of the sharing committee in charge of overseeing shared services and courses between the Rainier and Clatskanie school districts.

Director Rod Harding mentioned the discussion he had heard about changing the schools’ schedules to eight 45-minute classes. Rainier science teacher Dale Taylor stated that a change from seven to eight periods could cause a loss in productive teaching time.

Rainier Junior/Senior High School Principal Mark Bernhardt reported that hybrid schedules had been discussed which would establish some class periods as twice as long as others. It was mentioned that physical education and shop classes would particularly benefit from longer periods.

Taylor said “It was nice to have new ideas at the last meeting.”

The district received an anonymous donation of 18 new winter coats which have been distributed to students in need.

Due to changes in Federal Communication Commission regulations, MidCo is replacing bus radios. The district will place a radio repeater in the vicinity of Meissner Road and will receive a reimbursement, for no net cost to the district.

The board was asked to review a large number of policies regarding employee evaluation, student transportation, criminal records checks, student transfers, assessment programs and teaching and administrative standards. No action was taken on any proposed changes to these policies.

The board held an executive session in which they discussed pending litigation against the district and personnel discipline.

Commission Approves Moving Gillnets Off Columbia

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission (OFWC) approved on Dec. 7 a new management framework for Columbia River fisheries that includes more salmon for the sport fishery, a gradual shift of commercial gillnets to enhanced off-channel areas and development of new commercial selective gears for the mainstem.

The commission also set new barbless hook requirements for sport anglers beginning in 2013.

The Washington fish commission is set to consider the new Columbia River rules Dec. 14-15.

The adoption of the new management framework is the culmination of several months work by a two-state group comprised of members of the Oregon and Washington commissions, advisors and staff.

The idea was spawned by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber.

“We are very grateful for the time and effort of our commissioners, our sport and commercial advisors, our colleagues in Washington and our staff in developing a new framework for Columbia River fisheries in a very challenging environment,” said Roy Elicker, ODFW director.

“The challenge going forward will be to implement this plan to the benefit of both the sport and commercial fishing industries,” he added.

The plan approved by the commission generally shifts allocation of Columbia River salmon to the sport fishery.

In 2012, 60 percent of the allowed spring chinook catch went to the sports fishery, while the commercial fishers were allocated 40 percent of the catch.

For the 2013 spring chinook season, the catch will be allocated 65 percent to sports fishers and 35 percent to the commercial industry. The commercial share will decline to 30 percent in 2014-16, and 20 percent in 2017 and beyond.

For summer chinook, the current 50/50 split between sports and commercial will change to 60 for sports and 40 for commercial in 2013-14, 70/30 in 2015-16, and the split from 2017 and beyond will be determined through consultation with the Oregon and Washington fish commissions.

For tule fall chinook the current split is approximately 50/50. Under the plan approved by the governor-appointed Oregon fish commission, the commercial share will fall to 30 percent from 2013-16, and 20 percent in 2017 and beyond.

The current split between commercial and sports is also approximately 50/50 for upriver bright chinook salmon. The commercial share will fall to 30 percent in 2013-16 and 20 percent in 2017.

Increased Production in Off-channel Areas Promised

As part of the new “management plan,” commercial gillnets will be moved from the mainstem of the lower Columbia River to off-channel select areas, including Young’s Bay near Astoria and Blind Slough near Brownsmead.

To balance the loss of mainstem fish to the commercial fleet, the number of hatchery fish in the off-channel areas will be increased, a press release from the OFWC stated. An additional 1,000,000 spring chinook, 920,000 coho, and 500,000 select area bright fall chinook smolts will be released each year during the transition period, with additional increases in future years.

The plan also would allow for some continued commercial fishing in the mainstem, particularly to harvest excess hatchery fish, the press release stated. The plan would not allow gillnets, but would allow very limited commercial fishing in the mainstem using “more selective gear such as seine nets,” which are currently illegal. The commercial efficacy of alternative gear will be tested during pilot fall salmon fisheries in 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to the OFWC.

Barbless hooks, New Endorsement Required for sport anglers

At its meeting last week, the OFWC declined to delay the barbless hook requirement on the Columbia River and selected tributaries.

Therefore, beginning in 2013, barbless hooks will be required in the mainstem Columbia River up to the Oregon/Washington border and some lower tributaries.

For 2013 the following tributaries will be restricted to barbless hooks:

Northwest Zone: Youngs River from Highway 101 bridge upstream to markers at confluence with Klaskanine River; Lewis and Clark River from Highway 101 bridge upstream to Alternate Highway 101 bridge; Walluski River from confluence with Youngs River upstream to Highway 202 bridge; Gnat Creek from railroad bridge upstream to Aldrich Point Road; Knappa/Blind Slough select areas.

Willamette Zone: Willamette River mainstem below Willamette Falls, includes the Multnomah Channel and Gilbert River; Lower Clackamas River upstream to Highway 99E bridge.

Clatsop County Delegation Objects to Proposal

An Astoria area delegation that included Clatsop County commissioners Scott Lee and Dirk Rohne met with Gov. Kitzhaber Thursday, Dec. 6, in Salem to urge him to re-think his proposal to restrict the Columbia River commercial gillnet salmon fishery.

Following the meeting the group joined a rally of about 40 gillnetters and supporters on the steps of the Oregon capital in a show of support for the industry.

Lee and Rohne were joined by Fishhawk Fisheries owner Steve Fick, Jim Wells, president of Salmon For All commercial fishing advocacy group, and lobbyist Jim Marquis. Clatsop County natural resources manager Steve Meshke also joined the group. They laid out for Kitzhaber their objections to his plan, which they contend would drive many commercial fishermen out of business without helping conserve protected Columbia River salmon runs.

The participants said Kitzhaber heard their arguments, but did not back down from his determination to move gillnets off the Columbia main stem.

“The Columbia River belongs to everyone, and the fish in it are a shared public resource that belongs to everyone,” Rohne told the rally, echoing statements he made to the governor. “Everyone should have the same right to enjoy Columbia River salmon, and that is a service the gillnetters provide for all of us.”

Lee said that the state’s review of its Territorial Sea Plan has been ongoing for four years and has still drawn complaints that it is rushed, while the gillnet proposal is due to be acted on after only four months.

Gillnetters and their supporters argue that more than half of the commercial Columbia River salmon harvest currently comes from the main stem, and that existing off-channel fishing areas cannot accommodate all Columbia River gillnetters. They also emphasized that seine nets being touted as an alternative to commercial gillnets are currently illegal.

For information go to www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission.

Wauna Mill Completes Energy Conservation Project

An extensive energy conservation project at Georgia-Pacific’s Wauna Mill, in partnership with the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (CPUD) and the Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) Energy Smart Industrial Program (ESI), was celebrated last week by representatives of the mill and CPUD.

Pictured by one of the new energy efficient compressors are, from left, CPUD general manager Greg Booth, Georgia-Pacific vice president and mill manager Steve Francoeur, and  CPUD technical services specialist Brian Fawcett.

The energy efficiency project will reduce energy consumption at the millsite by nearly 5.5 million kilowatt hours per year, enough electricity to power 360 typical households, approximately 10 percent of CPUD’s residential customers.

For 2012, the Wauna Mill’s project is the largest energy conservation completed in Oregon under the BPA’s ESI, a program that offers technical and contracting assistance to utility customers to pursue industrial energy efficiency projects. In addition, this is the largest energy conservation project the Clatskanie PUD has completed in its history.

Compressed air is used throughout the millsite to operate manufacturing equipment. The mill’s compressed air system was upgraded by replacing three aging air compressors with new high efficiency compressors. The upgrade also included the installation of two new air dryers and piping, which now loops the air system. This upgrade to a loop system allows the compressed air system’s consumption to be reduced, which saves energy. Additionally, this project also improves the reliability of the compressed air system, which contributes to increased equipment uptime and efficiency.

“Energy conservation is important for our community and for Georgia-Pacific and we are always looking for opportunities to reduce our consumption,” noted Francoeur. “Any time we can conserve energy, reduce our energy costs, and improve our efficiency it is a success for both the environment and for business.”

The cost of installing the new compressors was more than $2 million; however, CPUD partnered in the project via the BPA ESI program, ensuring that the project qualified for incentives made available with credits provided by BPA energy efficiency programs funded through CPUD’s electric rates. As a result, an incentive of roughly $1.4 million was provided to Georgia-Pacific.

CPUD general manager Greg Booth added, “Working on this large efficiency improvement project with Georgia-Pacific is a critical part of our power supply strategy. This project will help strength the district’s power supply into the future and it showcases CPUD’s ongoing commitment as a leader in energy conservation.”

The project was coordinated by Mike Burghardt, energy leader for Georgia-Pacific; Brian Fawcett, technical services specialist for CPUD, and Andrew Miller, energy efficiency representative for the BPA.

“Clatskanie PUD is an active partner with the BPA in the regional Energy Smart Industrial program,” commented Miller. “Clatskanie PUD was the first BPA customer to utilize the large project fund, which is a financial instrument that enables BPA and its customers to acquire significant energy savings in the industrial sector. We welcome the ongoing collaboration with the PUD to pursue cost effective conservation in their service territory.”

“Clatskanie PUD has been a great partner in helping us identify and work on energy conservation projects,” noted Burghardt. “Energy conservation will continue to be a focus for Georgia-Pacific and the Wauna Mill, and the Clatskanie PUD will continue to play an important role in helping us achieve our sustainability goals.”

In fact, Georgia-Pacific was recently recognized by the American Forest and Paper Association with its “Leaders in Sustainability” energy efficiency award – a part of the association’s “Better Practices, Better Planet 2012 Sustainability Award” program.

In just two years, Georgia-Pacific’s efficiency efforts in its large pulp and paper mills reduced the corporation’s energy use by more than two trillion BTUs (British thermal units) nationwide.

Chief Photo by Deborah Steele Hazen


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