Ambre Energy, one of the two coal export companies vying for a home on the Columbia River, faces an unusual lawsuit. In the midst of anti-coal protests led by environmentalists, it's another coal industry heavyweight that's launched a lawsuit against the coal exporter. The issue? Ambre allegedly didn't get the okay from Montana coal miners Cloud Peak Energy before finalizing plans that were supposed to be agreed upon together. The conflict is just another bump in the rocky road towards coal's pending future along the Columbia.

Coal in Oregon has recently come under a barrage of criticism. A handful of Oregon organizations are teaming up to protest the potential creation of coal export stations along the Columbia River, arguing the operations will do damage to a wide range of environmental, economic and health issues. For Portlanders, the biggest beef is the means of transporting the coal from the mines to the ports.

Environmentalists say an extra 12 coal cars will wind up chugging through Portland every day if these export facilitates set up shop. On dry days, coal dust (which contains a bunch of toxins) could billow off the uncovered cars into places like St. Johns and Sauvie Island. Smaller towns along the Columbia face even worse potential pollution. But thanks to the recent coal vs. coal lawsuit and efforts by Oregon politicians and activists, the export project is slowing down, for now.

In April, Governor John Kitzhaber called for an extensive federal examination of the health and environmental impacts the coal transit and ports could cause. And just last week, mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith encouraged city council to adopt a resolution forbidding the transport of coal trains through Portland (Seattle passed a similar resolution in May). On the community level, local activists are preparing for a large August anti-coal demonstration in St. Johns after smaller rallies earlier in the year.

Ironically, the Montana coal company may have handed Oregon's anti-coal contingent a helpful delay to push back against coal operations in the state.