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Career & Professional Development Center

Northwest Coal Exports: Making Cents of the Environmental Cost.

Date: 5:30pm - 8:30pm PDT April 9, 2013 Location: Lower Student Lounge

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Lower Student Lounge

Should the Pacific Northwest open its ports to coal exportation? Join leading business, regulatory, and environmental stakeholders for a moderated and candid discussion representing all sides of this important issue. Attorneys, law students, faculty, and local professionals are cordially invited to attend this event, which will be followed by a catered reception to allow for more personal discussion. 1.5 Oregon CLE credits are available for attending attorneys.

Special Guests Include:

Rob Smith (Moderator): Editor of Portland Business Journal

David Steves: EarthFix Editor at Oregon Public Broadcasting

Liz Fuller: Public Relations Representative at Gard Communications, representing Ambre Energy

Brett VandenHeuvel: Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper

Bob Jenks: Executive Director of Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon

Richard Whitman (commenting on behalf of Governor Kitzhaber): Natural Resources Policy Director, Governor’s Natural Resources Office


Coal exports are one of the most divisive, important, and hotly contested issues presently facing the Pacific Northwest. Business interests suggest that exporting coal is necessary to boost U.S. GDP and promote regional jobs. Environmental interests and many localities strongly oppose these proposals due to concerns over global warming, health risks from coal dust, and harm to our waters. These stakeholders’ interests are playing out in local, state, and federal government processes, especially in permitting decisions and environmental review under NEPA. Hanging in the balance are infrastructure decisions surrounding railroad expansion, major port construction, and mining that could impact the Pacific Northwest for decades to come.

The purpose of this event is to provide up-to-date information to professionals, attorneys, students and members of the community on the long-term policy, economic, environmental, and legal issues underlying coal exports from the Pacific Northwest. Lewis & Clark Law School is pleased to host this timely discussion, and the six student groups hosting this discussion hope that this event will spur continued dialogue among interested parties, professionals, and members of the public.

Coal Exports Issue Summary:

Asian demand for coal is rapidly increasing. The United States holds significant reserves of low-sulfur coal in the Powder River Basin. In order to match supply with demand, several energy companies are proposing to transport this coal by train and barge to proposed major coal export port facilities in Washington and Oregon. These ports would facilitate a direct supply line of coal to Asia. The proposed plan would funnel as much as 150 million tons of coal a year through the Pacific Northwest, quickly turning our region into one of the most important coal export hubs in the world.  

State and federal permitting authorities will decide whether, among others, Ambre Energy, an Australian-owned company incorporated in Utah, can move forward with constructing proposed coal export infrastructure. Ambre Energy estimates the project will create hundreds of jobs, provide millions of dollars in tax revenue for the region, and help meet President Obama’s call for increased U.S. exports. Opponents of coal exports argue the environmental cost outweighs the economic benefits. Environmentalists and local businesses argue trains will cause polluting coal dust emissions in local communities and that Asian plants buying the coal will cause regional and international pollution that will affect air quality and contribute to climate change. Policy commentators also question whether this export plan will jeopardize the reputation of the Pacific Northwest as a progressively “green” region and whether the value of business generated from this reputation may be harmed.

Format/Duration: Approximately 90 minutes of moderated discussion followed by roughly 90 minutes of catered eating, drinking, and mingling time. 

RSVP: All interested attorneys, professionals, students, and faculty are welcome to attend. Participants are encouraged to stay for the catered reception in order to ask questions and share knowledge through more informal dialogue. Please RSVP your attendance using the registration form below.

The event is being organized by Student Advocates for Business and Environmental Responsibility (SABER), Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC), Business Law Society, Jewish Legal Society, Students for International Environmental Law (SIEL), and the Environmental Law Caucus (ELC).


Registration for this event is now closed.

Event Contact

 Jeff Crosswhite  <>

Noam Amir-Brownstein

45.45177; -122.677216