Kinder Morgan scraps plans for coal export plant at Port Westward

Kinder Morgan officials informed the Port of St. Helens and Columbia County commissioners May 8 that it is scrapping plans to build a coal storage and export facility at Port Westward Industrial Park. Port Westward is located at the Port of St. Helens, about 60 miles northwest of Portland near Clatskanie, along the Columbia River.

“We made a determination this week that it’s not going to work and we’re not going to pursue the project,” said Kinder Morgan Public Affairs Director Allen Fore during the commissioners’ May 8 meeting.

The Houston, Texas-based company had signed a memorandum of understanding in May 2012 with the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council to build the $200 million state-of-the-art facility under a project labor agreement. Officials said the project would have created 150 construction jobs over an 18- to 30-month period.

Once completed, the facility was expected to employ 80 full-time workers,  including members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to load ships.

Kinder Morgan’s plan was to transport coal by railcar from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana to Port Westward, where it would be loaded onto ships bound for Asia.

Environmental groups strongly opposed the project as soon as it was announced.

However, the real turning point came last year when Portland General Electric rejected Kimber Morgan’s initial terminal location, saying coal dust could potentially impact two natural gas plants it operates there. PGE has lease control of about 850 acres at the industrial park. Kinder Morgan had signed an option with the Port of St. Helens to lease about 100 acres of land.

PGE’s concerns forced Kinder Morgan to find another location within the industrial park.

“After months (and) many months of this analysis … we determined we could not find a site on this footprint that we could construct,” Fore told the Longview Daily News.

Fore said that while the company is disappointed the project did not work out, it is not ruling out the possibility of working with the Port of St. Helens on a future project.

John Mohlis, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, was disappointed with the news.

“We’re disappointed any time a project that could put our unemployed members back to work is taken off the table,” he said. “There is still one coal export proposal in Oregon we hope moves forward. Otherwise, the coal will be shipped out of other states and ports, and they’ll get the jobs, and we won’t.”

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