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Originally published May 8, 2013 at 7:53 PM | Page modified May 8, 2013 at 7:57 PM

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Energy company drops plans for Columbia River coal terminal

The Port of St. Helens, Ore., one of four sites eyed for coal-export terminals, has been dropped from consideration.

The Associated Press

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PORTLAND — An energy company has dropped plans for a coal-export terminal downstream of Portland along the Columbia River and will look for another site in the Northwest, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Kinder Morgan decided not to seek permits at the Port of St. Helens industrial park because of the site’s logistics, not because of the debate over coal exports from the Pacific Northwest to Asia, said spokesman Allen Fore.

“We couldn’t find a layout that we thought would work,” Fore said.

The terminal would have brought in coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. Coal companies are hoping to forge new markets in Asian countries where demand for coal is expected to grow in the decades ahead.

Some western coal already is exported to Asia through British Columbia, and three other proposals to export coal from Longview, Cherry Point near Bellingham and Port of Morrow in Oregon are being pursued by developers.

The projects could result in multibillion dollar investments in mining expansion and port developments. But they have run into strong opposition, with critics citing the contributions that coal combustion make to greenhouse gases and the impacts of increased numbers of coal trains in the region:

The terminal at the Port of St. Helens would have taken up to 30 million tons of coal a year hauled by trains through the Columbia River Gorge and west to the Port of St. Helens.

Kinder Morgan said its investment of $150 million to $200 million would have created 80 permanent jobs at terminal.

Fore said his company is hoping to find another place to develop a Northwest coal export terminal, but he declined to say where.

“We’re a customer-driven company,” he said, “and our customers are still looking at options in Pacific Northwest.”

The leader of an environmental group said the company faced “tremendous regional and local opposition,” citing a turnout of opponents for a recent rezoning meeting and a resolution expressing concerns from a nearby city, Scappoose, Ore.

“To say that it’s a matter of site logistics is questionable,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, a group that supports coal-terminal construction, said news of the project’s demise “is not entirely unexpected.”

“We have said all along that we had an array of projects, not all of which were likely to be built and ultimately the marketplace will help determine which projects move forward,” the group said.

Seattle Times staff reporter Hal Bernton contributed to this report.

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