The Oregonian. March 3, 2014.
On Tuesday, November 12th, over 80 people from Astoria, Warrenton, Forest Grove, Yamhill, and Washington state urged Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to use its authority to reject the Oregon LNG project. We sent a clear message to DEQ: Oregonians and Washingtonians oppose Oregon LNG and the pollution it would create. Attendees asked pointed questions about how DEQ can use its authority to protect water quality, salmon habitat, and air quality in its review of the proposed Oregon LNG export terminal. The hearing occurred only weeks after Clatsop County Commissioners voted unanimously to reject the Oregon LNG pipeline. Oregon LNG cannot build its proposed LNG export terminal without air and water pollution permits and DEQ has the authority to deny them.
Check out Riverkeeper’s letter to DEQ on Oregon LNG’s proposed water pollution permit.
Oregon LNG’s Proposed Pollution Permits
- Stormwater Pollution Permit: This permit would authorize Oregon LNG to discharge dirty stormwater to the Columbia and Skipanon Rivers while building the terminal.
- Process Wastewater Permit: This permit would allow Oregon LNG to discharge millions of gallons of polluted water and stormwater every day of the year. This includes hot water, ammonia, copper and other toxic pollutants.
- Air Pollution Permit: This permit would give the green light for air pollution from compressors, vaporizers, ships, harbor tugs, support vehicles, gas-turbines, construction dust and a number of other sources. LNG tankers and the security vessels that accompany them are required to run their engines during the entire cargo loading cycle, spewing exhaust and air.
As the marathon 12 hour hearing on Australian-owned Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific coal export project came to a close on July 9th, hundreds of citizens converged outside the Oregon Convention Center in Portland for a People’s Hearing and rally. That day, inside the Convention Center, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) provided two rooms for the public to testify. The room’s capacity was limited so only a handful of observers could enter and hear citizen testimony. Speaking slots were filled via online sign ups and a very small number of ‘walk-ins’ were accepted.
The resounding testimonial both inside the Convention Center and outside at the People’s Hearing was that DEQ has the power to fully study the impacts of the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project. Yet, DEQ is choosing to limit the scope of their review to just the Port of Morrow. This approach does not serve Oregonians. DEQ must fully analyze all impacts of this controversial coal export project and deny the permits.
The DEQ hearing in eastern Oregon regarding the Morrow Pacific project was also held on July 9th for a 12 hour duration in the town of Hermiston. This hearing drew project opponents from near and far. Residents of eastern Washington and Idaho traveled to Hermiston to inform DEQ about the broad impacts of the Morrow Pacific project. For these residents, the coal export project would bring up to five coal trains per day rumbling through their cities.
Tell DEQ to stop dirty coal – deny the permits!
DEQ has opened a public comment period on draft air quality permits for the controversial Morrow Pacific coal export project proposed by Ambre Energy. The comment period runs through August 12th.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
(1) Sign the Petition
Tell DEQ to use their authority to protect Oregon from dirty coal export by signing this petition.
(2) Attend a Public Hearing + Portland Rally
Public hearings will be held on July 9 from 8AM-8PM in both Portland and Hermiston, Oregon. Click here for details about the public hearings. And, DEQ is requiring those that want to testify at a hearing to register beforehand – REGISTER NOW!
There will be a rally in Portland outside the hearing at 5:30PM – please wear red to the rally!
Ambre Energy’s proposed Morrow Pacific coal export terminal would result in coal dust and diesel emissions that would likely exceed National Ambient Air Quality Standards and worsen pollution in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, where air quality is currently suffering from air pollution. The proposal would result in doubling barge traffic on the Columbia River, harming salmon, river recreation and navigation. Due to concerns over these likely impacts, local governments, tribes, federal agencies and elected officials, including Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio, have called for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement on the project.
Hermiston Herald. December 1, 2012.
The Seattle Times
DEQ Requires Ambre Energy to Obtain Clean Water Act Certification
On February 12, 2013, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced a new water quality review for Ambre Energy’s (Ambre) flailing coal export project on the Columbia River, requiring Ambre to apply for a Clean Water Act section 401 certification. The 401 certification prohibits the Army Corps of Engineers from issuing a dock-building permit unless the coal terminal meets Oregon’s water quality standards. Previously, Ambre was not required to obtain this permit. The 401 certification process process is rigorous and will provide important scrutiny on impacts to the Columbia River, salmon, and our health. At the same time DEQ announced the permit requirement, unfortunately, DEQ issued three air and water permits for the Morrow Pacific Project.
We are pleased to see the new permit requirement, but the air and water permits issued open the door for Ambre to begin construction of the upland buildings for the coal terminal (not the dock) at the Port of Morrow in eastern Oregon. This is why we need the Governor to act now. We need a real commitment to keep dirty coal out of Oregon. Call Governor Kitzhaber’s citizen representative office TODAY: (503) 378-4582
Comprehensive Scope of Review for Proposed Millennium Coal Export Project
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and Cowlitz County are taking to heart the public desire for a thorough analysis of the impacts of the Millennium coal export proposal in Longview, Washington, on public health, local businesses, and our river. Ecology and the county announced that the scope of their environmental review will include a broad look at coal train traffic, community health, and greenhouse gas emissions from burning the coal. A record-breaking 215,486 people commented on Millennium coal export proposal with the vast majority asking for a thorough scope of review.
For more information or to learn how you can get involved in the campaign to stop coal exports, contact Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blog post by Lauren Goldberg, Riverkeeper’s Staff Attorney—
February 25, 2014. One of the most fundamental parts of Riverkeeper’s work is ensuring local fish are safe to eat. We take this work very seriously. As massive toxic spills grip national headlines, we are working hard at home in Oregon and Washington to use the power of the people and environmental laws to protect our fundamental right to eat fish without fear of toxic contamination.
As part of our Toxic Free Fish Campaign, we recently submitted a detailed letter, report, and coalition letter to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality urging the agency to take the necessary steps to keep toxics out of otherwise healthy local fish. Here’s the backstory: In 2010, we celebrated a major victory when Oregon adopted the nation’s most protective water quality rules for toxics. But, the rules are only the first step. Oregon needs to use its full authority to implement the rules and identify rivers that need toxic recovery plans, called “Total Maximum Daily Loads.”
Here on the Columbia we have a chronic problem with certain types of fish being too toxic for pregnant women and kids to eat. This is unacceptable. Fish advisories—telling people to stay away from certain types of fish or stop eating them altogether—are not the answer. Toxic pollutants like mercury, PCBs, and copper have no place in our rivers and streams. So, Riverkeeper is working on all fronts to keep toxics out of fish, from educating the next generation to enforcing environmental laws to working with tribal nations on policy reforms.
Learn more about our Toxic Free Fish campaign.
Blog post by Lorri Epstein, Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Director—
While pulling on waders and boots local middle school teacher, Adam Smith, had a good chuckle at the dowdy appearance of the waterproof gear he was donning to sample water quality at the Hood River Waterfront Park. Smith is one of Riverkeeper’s 96 volunteers who monitor the health of our rivers.
Since 2006, Riverkeeper volunteers have monitored sites in Oregon and Washington, collecting valuable water quality data. From teachers to students to local water enthusiasts, Riverkeeper trains volunteers to use water quality monitoring equipment and collect data throughout the Columbia River Basin.
In early January, Riverkeeper submitted 2013 water quality data to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from 62 sites on the Columbia River and tributaries. Fifty-two of the sites monitored (84%) had at least one violation of the state water quality standards. The state of Oregon will use this data in their statewide assessments of whether water bodies are meeting safety limits for swimming, fishing, and threatened salmon species.
Our high-quality, volunteer-collected data is filling critical data gaps and creating a robust data set of water quality along the Columbia and its tributaries. This kind of on-going monitoring is critical to understanding the health of the river and to ensuring a rapid response when problems arise. By building this dataset, and continuing it over time, we provide critical ecological insight at a scale that is relevant to river managers and will support evidence-based policy and decision-making. It’s also a great excuse to spend some time on the river.
Steve Hanson from Oregon DEQ recognized Riverkeeper’s contribution stating, “The Riverkeeper program has developed into a high-quality monitoring program that links a large number of volunteers together over a long stretch of the river. That in itself is valuable, but the volunteers also do an excellent job of documenting the quality of the data they collect thereby providing useful data at a resolution the DEQ would never be able achieve alone. Some of this data has already identified opportunities to improve water quality.”
Our volunteers take ownership over key sections of the river, and work to restore the river stretch by stretch, by testing water quality, reporting pollution, and removing contamination, trash, and invasive species.
Thanks to all the volunteers to contributed their time and energy to help ensure a clean Columbia!
Blog post by Christina Skirvin, Riverkeeper’s Program Administrator—
It’s been a busy year here at Riverkeeper. On our last day of 2013, we reflect on some the year’s major accomplishments, events, and milestones as well as share our immense appreciation to all of you who have donated, volunteered, and rallied alongside us in the fight for our right to clean water and to protect the mighty Columbia. Cheers to the New Year!
5. Victory over Dirty Stormwater Pollution
We set out to hold the largest county in southwest Washington accountable for its dirty stormwater pollution. And we won. In the final days of 2013, we celebrate a huge victory for clean water and salmon recovery. Clark County agreed to settle our long running lawsuit, comply with the law, and pay $3 million to an independent board to fund salmon recovery in local streams. This stands out as one of the largest penalties in a Clean Water Act citizen suit in Washington State history.
It all started back in 2009 when Clark County brokered a deal with state environmental regulators. Stormwater pollution is the leading cause of murky, unhealthy rivers in Washington State. Cities and counties are subject to special permits designed to get at the heart of the problem: urban sprawl. The County asked state regulators to approve weaker limits for reducing pollution from big box stores, subdivisions, and other sprawl that threatens fragile streams and rivers that once supported the most abundant salmon runs on Earth. The state regulators agreed.
What the County forgot was that there’s another sheriff in town: citizens and citizen groups. The Clean Water Act empowers citizens to sue the government—and polluters—when they violate the law. That’s exactly what Riverkeeper and our partners at the Rosemere Neighborhood Association and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center did. Led by a team of legal eagles from Earthjustice, we went on to win legal victories at the state pollution board, at the Court of Appeals, and in federal court.
That brings us to present day, the holiday season. In a resounding victory for communities that rely on eating healthy Columbia River fish and swimming in clean water, the County agreed to comply with the Clean Water Act and make payments totaling $3 million to the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board to be used to protect and restore struggling local streams and rivers.
4. Volunteers on the River
In 2013, Riverkeeper ran one of the largest volunteer monitoring programs in the West, and we are proud of our citizen scientists. Our volunteers monitored water quality, conducted habitat assessments, and completed river cleanups along 300 miles of the Columbia. We trained volunteers to use water quality probes, report pollution, and remove invasive species. Over 160 volunteers dedicated thousands of hours to provide important data and information to our staff. In addition to collecting data, we organized seven river cleanups, where 130 people removed over 5,700 pounds of trash from the river bank. We cleaned up parks, islands, and swimming beaches. Thanks to all our volunteers!
Riverkeeper expanded our popular Swim Guide smart phone app by adding 10 new beaches. Swim Guide helps people enjoy our river by providing water quality data for many swimming beaches. Because Oregon and Washington do not sample for E. coli at Columbia River swimming beaches, we collected samples at 39 beaches throughout the summer and provided real-time data via Swim Guide.
3. Coal and Oil: Sounding the Alarm
It’s been a wild ride in 2013. Not willing to be bullied by Big Coal, we redoubled our effort and took the offensive. Three of the six coal export terminals folded, including the large Kinder Morgan proposal on the Columbia! We exposed coal dust polluting the Columbia River, and we told a broad TV audience that new export terminals would make it much worse. Riverkeeper and allies filed a lawsuit to stop coal pollution into our river and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. invited us onto his national radio show to tell the story. We dominated public hearings in Oregon and Washington where thousands of people stood together to say we can do better than dirty coal.
On September 17, we exceeded our goals in Longview, Washington, for the Millennium coal hearing by having 800 people stand up to oppose dirty coal. A Longview pastor, doctor, and transportation expert joined a Montana rancher to hold a press event objecting to coal. This “big tent” of broad opposition is getting bigger, and that is the reason we are winning.
We turned up the heat on new giant oil terminals too. When Tesoro Savage announced plans to build a 360,000-barrel-per-day oil terminal on the Columbia River (imagine 730 oil tankers per year on the Columbia), we jumped into action. Riverkeeper sued the Port of Vancouver for violating public meetings laws and failing to disclose the impacts of 1,400 oil trains per year on Vancouver and other communities on the rail route. Then, 400 people attended the first hearing of the state energy council who will vote on the project, and 31,000 people submitted written comments. The Columbian reported, “An hour and a half into the hearing, not a single person had spoken in favor of the proposal.” The paper quotes Brett VandenHeuvel saying, “This is a fight we can and will win, and it starts tonight.”
Riverkeeper also geared up to stop a large expansion of an oil and possibly coal terminal at Port Westward near Clatskanie, Oregon. The bad ideas to foul the Columbia came at a shocking pace in 2013, but Riverkeeper expanded our scope, built coalitions, and marched forward to protect the big river.
2. Clean Up the Dam Oil
After two years of investigating oil spills from Columbia River dams, Riverkeeper took action. We sued in federal court to reduce or eliminate the hundreds of spills each year, plus the unreported oil that leaks into the River on a daily basis. Oil, of course, harms fish and wildlife, and also may contain toxic chemicals. The Chief Joseph Dam, for example, spilled 1,500 gallons of oil into the Columbia that contained cancer-causing PCBs 14,000,000% above the state water quality limits.
This case is important, and will be watched across the nation, because most Columbia River dams do not currently have discharge permits. Nearly every other facility that discharges pollution into the River is regulated with limits in a permit, but so far the Army Corps of Engineers who operate the dams have refused to follow the Clean Water Act. The Army Corps’ sister agencies have failed to step in, so Riverkeeper is filling the gap. This case is drawing attention to the pervasive problem of oil discharge on the Columbia, and we look forward to creating an oil-free Columbia in our future.
1. Victory Over LNG
We pushed. We persevered. We prevailed. Clatsop County rejected Oregon LNG’s pipeline application! This is a victory that thousands of people have worked toward over the years. It’s a victory for salmon habitat, farmers threatened with pipelines, and our climate. Oregon LNG wants to place an unprecedented gas cooling plant and new marine terminal in the middle of a protected salmon nursery and export more gas than Oregon and Washington use combined. Fracking for gas and then super-cooling it for export is dirty and energy-intensive. We started 2013 off with a community tour of the proposed site. In the spring, the Supreme Court rejected Oregon LNG’s frivolous effort to block the Clatsop County vote. In the summer, we prepared legal arguments on why the County should reject LNG, and in the fall, Staff Attorney Lauren Goldberg presented to the County with 100 supporters in the room. Looking ahead, Oregon LNG will, of course, push forward in with legal challenges. But we are going to savor this as a major victory, and be ready to defend it in 2014.