Investors drop out of Coos Bay coal port project

AP Environmental Writer

GRANTS PASS — A California marine terminal management company has until the end of the month to decide if it still wants to try to develop the Port of Coos Bay to ship coal mined in Montana and Wyoming to Asia, now that two of its partners have dropped out.

A document posted on the International Port of Coos Bay website Monday says Mitsui & Co., the U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese trading company, and Korean Electric Power Corp., the potential buyer of the coal, are no longer part of the project.

The development was first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Metropolitan Stevedore Company of Wilmington, Calif., known as Metro Ports, on March 5 signed a renewal of its exclusive negotiating agreement with the port, which is good through March 31. The company did not return a call for comment.

Coos Bay is one of five Northwest ports interested in exporting coal mined in Montana and Wyoming to markets in Asia.

Environmentalists have mounted a campaign to stop the shipments, arguing that burning coal in Asia is bad for global warming and acidification of the oceans, and that the huge trains hauling coal are bad for the health and lifestyle of communities along the route.

“They are going to have a lot of difficulty moving forward, because of the infrastructure upgrades necessary both to the rail lines and the bridges and overpasses they are asking the partner investors to foot the bill on,” Sierra Club spokeswoman Krista Collard said.

Port of Coos Bay spokeswoman Elise Hamner said the project is still conceptual, and at the end of the month Metro Ports could decide to drop consideration of Coos Bay, move forward, or ask for more time for research.

A 2012 feasibility study for the project estimates that coal exports through Coos Bay could go from 3 million metric tons annually in the first year, to 10 million metric tons in the fifth year. Construction of a bulk marine terminal is estimated at $250 million and upgrades to the Coos Bay Rail Link between Coos Bay and Eugene are estimated at $182 million. Construction would generate 895 direct jobs. Port operations would sustain 82 jobs in the first year and 165 jobs in the fifth.

Other ports pursuing coal exports are Cherry Point and Longview in Washington, and St. Helens and Morrow in Oregon.

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