After months of anti-coal protests—which recently came to a head at a Salem rally—led by environmental groups across Oregon, Governor John Kitzhaber has decided to re-evaluate the potential coal ports that aim to root themselves along the Columbia River.
In a letter (PDF) to the Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers, Kitzhaber made it clear that these export companies aren't pulling the wool over his eyes. He requested a "programmatic and comprehensive environmental impact statement" to look at the array of export companies vying for Oregon turf.
"It is imperative that the federal government take seriously its responsibility to make informed decisions and that there be a comprehensive look at the energy, environmental, and public health impacts of these proposals before the nation commits itself to this path." While Kitzhaber didn't say that he was for or against coal, he spoke to the gravity of putting the state in the grips of a coal-dependent economy, adding to climate change.
"Developing that resource for energy production in Asia will extend the period of time that Asian nations are reliant on coal, resulting in greater worldwide emission of greenhouse gases," he writes. "The impacts of United State coal exports on climate change are an issue of national concern that merits a hard look by a federal agency."
He specifically pointed out that more research needs to be conducted on the environmental affects of coal dust, the most direct threat to Portlanders.
Laura Stevens, who manages the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, says she's glad that the governor has finally stepped up.
"I applaud the governor for listening to Oregon, it's reassuring to see our action rewarded with his action," says Stevens, calling the move a big step in the right direction.
But, she's cautious to drink the kool-aide before he follows through. "We hope that he continues to exercise his leadership in major state decisions on this issue," says Stevens. "I look forward to what he does next."