Kinder Morgan’s Coal Export Scheme Bites the Dust

Company abandons coal terminal planned for Oregon.
This post is part of the research project: Northwest Coal & Oil Exports
Photo courtesy of Paul K Anderson. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy of Paul K Anderson. Used with permission.

Huge news on the coal export front just now. As Scott Learn at The Oregonian reports, “Kinder Morgan drops plan to build coal export terminal at Port of St. Helens industrial park.”

Kinder Morgan had been planning to export as much as 30 million tons of coal each year on the Columbia River from a site near Clatskanie, Oregon, but their plans ran into a buzz saw of opposition from local communities, environmental and health advocates, and even nearby industrial users. This morning they announced that they are officially abandoning their plans to build a coal terminal at Port Westward.

Sightline’s research was instrumental in the debate. We published extensive documentation of Kinder Morgan’s problems with coal dust at their terminals, as well as the company’s lengthy rap sheet of fraud, illegal dumping, and lax safety. A month after we published our research, the utility PGE announced that it would not sublease its land at Port Westward to Kinder Morgan out of concern that the spread of coal dust would damage its gas turbines. Since then, the firm has struggled to configure its plans, but local opposition continued to mount while prices in Asia weakened.

Today’s news amounts to a huge victory for the Power Past Coal campaign. Of the six coal export terminals originally planned for the Northwest, three have now been withdrawn, in large part owing to an enormous backlash to the plans.

Predictably, Kinder Morgan is trying to downplay the role of coal export opponents in thwarting the company’s plans:

Kinder Morgan’s Allen Fore attributed the decision not to seek permits for a coal export terminal to site logistics at the Port of St. Helens industrial park, not the controversy over coal.

“We looked at multiple options and different footprints, but we couldn’t find one compatible with the facility we wanted to construct,” Fore said.

Yet the firm’s statement is revealing. Kinder Morgan had a specific project design that they presented to the public. After PGE rejected the plan—out of very justifiable objection to Kinder Morgan’s inability to contain coal dust—it had to go back to the drawing board. Having lost the element of surprise, they were met with opposition at every turn.

Kinder Morgan says, cryptically, that they are, “still looking for coal export sites in the Northwest,” though they won’t name specific sites.


Postscript 5/14/13: A reader points out that this is actually Kinder Morgan’s second failed coal terminal project this year. The company backed out of plans at the Port of Wilmington, Delaware after they failed to reach agreement with the local longshoreman’s union.

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  1. Alan says:

    Great news! One down, five? to go? (B-ham, Longview, Grays Harbor, Coos Bay, Morrow Point.

    • Bonnie Meltzer says:

      3 DOWN 3 TO GO Grays Harbor pulled out last year and Coos Bay last month.

    • Eric de Place says:

      It’s better than that: we’re officially at 3 down and 3 to go!

      Grays Harbor, Coos Bay, and Port Westward are all off the table. That leaves us with just Port of Morrow, Longview, and Cherry Point.

  2. Bonnie Meltzer says:

    The individuals and organizations who have been fighting constantly will still continue. Everyone should be in the fight. Every little bit helps. Signing Petitions is not enough. Spread the word. Get good info to tell your friends and neighbors at Get articles written, post on facebook, send emails to people you know. It matters. It mattered to Grays Harbor, Coos Bay and St Helens. Coal is volatile, the markets are
    and so are the people. Thank you sightline for all your help.

    • Eric de Place says:

      And thank YOU, Bonnie, for all the work you’re doing!

    • Dan Embree says:


      Many of us in the little, impoverished village of Mountainair, New Mexico are trying to hold off a projected Kinder Morgan CO2 pipeline, which is going to threaten our watershed — about the only thing we’ve got besides clean air and wonderful sunsets. We have made use of your website, to good effect, but the odds are against us.


      Dan Embree

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