(neé North Portland Coal-Ition Brigade) on distributing coal-fires at
terminals in Boardman
February 25, 2013
To: Organizations opposed to coal transit through the Columbia River Gorge
From: Barbara Ellis and Taizz Medalia
Two of us veterans of the North Portland Coal-Ition Brigade—did that 165-mile trip to Boardman to distribute 100 anti-coal-terminal fliers Sunday, Feb. 24. A lot of pre-trip research was done on Boardman itself in preparation for this combination posting/canvassing direct-action effort.
We arrived around noon accurately figuring that’s when the most people would be in the downtown area on both sides of I-84.
In posting fliers, we lunched at the hugely popular C & D burger eatery, posted the flier on its bulletin board, atop Nickel Ads stack, handed out a half-dozen, and left a pair in the uni-sex bathrooms. From there, it was posting it on the sides of 3 food-carts on Main street, distributing them to patrons of Boardman's busy laundromat, people outside the town’s outside the only supermarket and on its community billboard. Other spots were slipping fliers under the doors of the Senior Center and Head Start headquarters, and posting them on the door and on an inside bulletin board of a super-busy bodega.
We then went down to the fire station to hand a flier to one of the 7 paid firefighters (they have near ly 60 volunteers scattered from 11-50 miles away in Ione, Irrigon, Lexington, Hermiston, etc.). He and a colleague seemed totally unaware about information on the flier and admitted they had never had training in quenching a coal-fire. This well-known common hazard from stored coal evidently has never come up in public or private discussions/forums in Morrow County about Ambre’s proposed Boardman terminal. At least a half-dozen national companies are involved in quenching coal fires and training programs for firefighters.
He ensured the flier would be in the hands of the chief first thing Monday; hopefully, that will stir city officials to recognize either Ambre Energy provide a team of coal-fire specialists or that they’ll have to spend a small fortune on training the firefighters and buying the equipment/chemicals vital to putting out fires.
The last half of our nearly four-hour expedition was spent in canvassing nearly 40 houses/apartments in the low-income north side of I-84. Boardman has a heavy Latino/Pacific Islander population that seem to be working as part of the 500 employees at the ConAgra frozen potato complex; others may well be part of the staff of the two newest major plants in town: Pacific Ethanol (2007) and the ZeroChem cellulosic ethanol complex (2010) touted recently (2-18-13) in an Oregonian op-ed).
We counted only about four residents who were aware that a coal storage terminal was in the offing for barging it down the Gorge. They certainly had no idea that Morrow County officials/Port Commissioners were supporting a coal terminal at one of the two sites that’s near a railroad (the rendering of the small, covered plant suggests a spur off the present set of tracks will be carrying the coal to its conveyor belts).
One man, a pedestrian, took 2 fliers. He was super knowledgeable about the terminal deal and the most vocally opposed to the project. “Whatever Gene wants, Gene gets, “ he said. “ We were never asked about those two plants that came in here.” This “Gene” is not listed by google as either the mayor or member of City Council or Chamber of Commerce. He said he was told that Ambre was going to bring in a special coal-fire team. That has to be news to the fire fighters, of course.
In almost all instances, we were greeted warmly and well. Everyone took the fliers except one lady going to her car at the supermarket.
The intention of this project was to make townspeople aware of the coal-fire dangers inherent of this proposed Boardman terminal—and to force the issue into the public eye in Ambre having to reveal how it plans to han! dle this all-too-common hazard.
The architectural rendering shows a covered terminal and Ambre has sent letters of intent to two Portland companies (Vigor Industries, Gundersons) to build 15 covered coal barges. However, east of the Mississippi River, no coal barges/trains/terminals are covered seemingly because of the danger of spontaneous combustion setting off explosions and unquenchable fires. Because most coal fires are started by oxygen, enclosing coal suggests even greater danger of explosions/fires.
Too, considering that the coal Ambre plans to store at a Boardman terminal is sub-bituminous and, therefore, twice as volatile as from other eastern coal fields, it would appear that the fire hazard is twice as likely to happen as at eastern terminals. -posted here on 3.2.13