Sierra Club Challenges Dirty and Dangerous Fossil Fuel Exports in Oregon
January 28, 2013
On January 25, the Sierra Club won an important victory in its efforts to gain access to public information regarding the Port of Coos Bay’s contentious plans to build a coal export facility.
In its decision, the Coos County Circuit Court upheld the ideals of fairness and transparency in a case involving the Port’s refusal to comply with a routine request for public records. The Port of Coos Bay's efforts to dissuade the Sierra Club from obtaining records included attempts to extort nearly $20,000 in fees and invasive demands for information about the Sierra Club's members and donors as a stipulation for the records release. The Court has ordered the Port to turn over records and prohibited the Port from posing invasive questions involving constitutionally privileged information to the Sierra Club and other public interest groups in the future.
According to the Sierra Club’s Cesia Kearns, "the court’s decision offers renewed hope that the public's interest and open discourse remain top priorities to those charged with protecting the law and our local families. Despite having countless opportunities to be transparent with Oregon families, the Port of Coos Bay resorted to deceitful tactics to try to scare away public interest groups from learning more about their coal export plans, and opted to violate the Oregon Public Records Act rather than reveal even the names of the companies they are courting to develop a dangerous and unstudied coal export facility.”
To read more on the recent decision, please click here.
To listen to audio of the January 25 Court hearing, please click here.
July 24, 2012
On July 24, 2012, the Sierra Club won a key victory in efforts to shine a light on secretive and controversial plans to export coal through the Port of Coos Bay to Asia.
Coos County Circuit Court Judge Michael Gillespie ruled from the bench late last week, to allow arguments to move forward on the Sierra Club's claim that the Port of Coos Bay has engaged in a 'pattern and practice' of attempting to intimidate those seeking to access public records on its controversial plans to export coal from the Port.
The Court's decision comes in the Sierra Club's ongoing legal case challenging the Port of Coos Bay's decision to charge more than $20,000 to inspect public documents related to the potential harms from open coal piles, new coal train traffic through communities along the Coos Bay rail link, dredging in sensitive wetlands, and other potential negative impacts.
Most recently, the Port filed a motion to prevent the Sierra Club from presenting a theory that the Port has engaged in a long-standing practice of asking invasive and unconstitutional questions in an effort to intimidate organizations seeking public records in order to chill public debate on coal export decisions.
February 15, 2012
On February 15, the Sierra Club filed an appeal under the Oregon Public Records Act requesting information from the Port of Coos Bay about development plans that could pave the way for the export of dirty coal. The appeal to the Coos County District Attorney addresses the Port’s effective denial of the Sierra Club’s public records request, because the Port has demanded and has refused to waive an excessive fee — nearly $20,000 — to access just 2,500 pages of public information. Under Oregon law, such fees are ordinarily waived when the public interest will be served by the release of the information, but the Port has refused to waive the exorbitant fee.
January 18, 2012
On January 18, a coalition of local residents, grassroots environmental and clean-energy groups took action to stop the exportation of dirty coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Port of Coos Bay in Oregon. Sierra Club and its allies filed an appeal of the Oregon Department of State Lands’ decision to issue a dredging permit that would allow the Port to export coal and LNG. While the “multi-purpose” dredging permit was initially sought to develop an LNG import terminal, the Port of Coos Bay recently entered into a confidential agreement with an undisclosed coal export company seeking to ship between six and 10 million tons of coal overseas annually, and LNG backers have changed their plans to export domestic gas instead.
Coalition members appealed the dredging permit in part due to concerns about the harmful impacts on Coos Bay waterways that serve as salmon and oyster habitat and support commercial and recreational fisheries. The permit authorizes the largest dredging project in an estuary the state has ever approved, and would facilitate massive LNG and coal tanker ships and heavy ship traffic that could disrupt recreational boating and fishing in the region.
Oregonians are concerned about potential economic and public health consequences of allowing coal and liquefied natural gas exports at the Port of Coos Bay. Mile-long, open-top coal trains could pass through communities, exposing families to toxic coal dust and increasing the risk of respiratory illness. The proposed Pacific Connector LNG pipeline would run across 234 miles of the state, elevating the risk for gas spills, pipeline explosions, and other accidents. Exporting LNG could also result in significant increases in energy prices for Oregon families and businesses.
Local residents, community leaders and environmental groups are also alarmed by the lack of transparency from the State and Port of Coos Bay regarding potential coal exports. Public records requests filed by concerned parties have been met by unclear answers from the Port. In June 2011, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber commented on the concerns with development fossil fuel export terminals, saying that coal export development in Oregon "should not happen in the dead of night. We must have an open, vigorous public debate before any projects move forward."
“Exporting coal and liquefied natural gas is dirty and dangerous business,” said Ivan Maluski, Conservation Program Coordinator of the Sierra Club’s Oregon Chapter. “Oregon’s leaders should not let out-of-state coal and gas companies hijack our economic future, health, and clean water.”
Coos Waterkeeper, Friends of Living Oregon Waters (FLOW), the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and Climate Solutions are represented by attorneys Jan Hasselman and Janette Brimmer of Earthjustice, and Karl Anuta.
Details and Documents:
Coos County District Attorney Decision
February 28, 2012
Port of Coos Bay Continues to Stonewall Public Information about Dirty Coal Export Plans
February 15, 2012, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Appeal of Sierra Club Public Record Request to the Port of Coos Bay
February 15, 2012
Exhibits A-J to the Appeal of Sierra Club Public Record Request to the Port of Coos Bay
February 15, 2012
Coalition Appeals Massive Dredging Permit for Coos Bay that Paves the Way for Export of Liquefied Natural Gas and Coal
Janury 18, 2012, Coalition Press Release
Coalition Notice of Appeal and Request for Hearing
January 18, 2012
Judge slams Coos Bay port for 'bad faith' handling of records request on planned coal terminal
January 31, 2013 by Jeff Mapes, The Oregonian
Sierra Club wins records ruling on Coos Bay coal export plans
January 31, 2013 by the AP
Oregon Group Wins Ruling For Coal Export Records
February 1, 2013 by Earthfix
COAL: Oregon Governor Demands Answers on Export Plans
April 27, 2012 by Manuel Quinones, E&E News
Editorial: Oregon Port Sets New Standard for Blocking Public Records
April 3, 2012, Bend Bulletin
Fight Over Coos Bay Coal Records Fee Continues
February 29, 2012 by Cassandra Profita, Oregon Public Broadcasting
Groups challenge permit for Ore. coal, LNG terminal
January 19, 2012 by Manuel Quinones, Greenwire