PORTLAND -- Hundreds turned out at a Department of Environmental Quality public hearing Thursday night to speak out against a plan that would ship coal through Washington and Oregon.
Australia-based Ambre Energy wants to move more than 8 million tons of coal each year, by train, from Montana or Wyoming to a port in Boardman. From there it would be shipped, by barge, to a port in Clatskanie before heading overseas.
The Sierra Club, Columbia Riverkeeper and other environmental groups oppose the plan.
"The coal dust is associated with bronchitis," said Martin Donohoe.
"What happens to the river happens to our communities," said Kathy Fitzpatrick of Moser. "Our communities are very impacted by any impacts on the Columbia River."
Fitzpatrick was one of an estimated 600 people to pack a conference room in Northeast Portland. She was joined by a doctor who was concerned about the potential health risks from the shipments.
Supporters of the plan representing coal companies, terminal developers and unions spoke in favor of the proposal.
"It creates jobs on either end and a lot of good taxes and contributions to schools," said Liz Fuller.
"We believe it can be built properly according to Oregon's high environmental standards and still be successful and not a detriment to the environment," added John Mohlis.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is also weighing in on the controversial proposal.
"One could say we're subsidizing the investment in coal-fired plants in Asia," said Kitzhaber. "The jet stream brings the mercury back to the U.S."