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Port of Coos Bay loses transparency battle in Coal Export Public Records Case

Port of Coos Bay loses transparency battle in Coal Export Public Records Case
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For those of us who have dealt first hand with the barriers to public transparency placed by the Port of Coos Bay this comes as welcome news. For too long the port has gone unchallenged by local media and been allowed to present as fact unconfirmed claims and downright falsehoods.

COOS BAY, OR– Today, the Coos County Circuit Court upheld the ideals of fairness and transparency in a case brought by the Sierra Club against the Port of Coos Bay for its refusals to comply with routine requests for public records. The Port of Coos Bay’s efforts to dissuade the Sierra Club from inquiring about its plans to develop a coal export facility included attempts to extort nearly $20,000 in fees and invasive demands for information about the Sierra Club’s members and donors as a stipulation for the records release. The Court has ordered the Port to turn over records without a fee and prohibited the Port from posing invasive questions involving constitutionally privileged information to the Sierra Club and other public interest groups in the future.

Cesia Kearns, Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign released the following statement in response:

“The court’s decision offers renewed hope that the public’s interest and open discourse remain top priorities to those charged with protecting the law and our local families. Despite having countless opportunities to be transparent with Oregon families, the Port of Coos Bay resorted to deceitful tactics to try to scare away public interest groups from learning more about their coal export plans, and opted to violate the Oregon Public Records Act rather than reveal even the names of the companies they are courting to develop a dangerous and unstudied coal export facility.

While local leaders throughout the Northwest are asking tough questions about coal exports, Coos Bay’s active resistance to transparency begs the question – what are they hiding?

What we do know is that the potential impacts of mining and transporting coal on our families’ health and safety, the harm to Oregon’s existing industries, and an unreliable and declining interest in coal from the Asian market are a bad deal for Oregon families. We ought to know the extent of these risks, and this decision is a testament to how important the need for transparency is to our communities. As Oregon leaders like Governor Kitzhaber face decisions about the fate of these dangerous proposals, they should follow the court’s lead: safety and open and honest accountability must take precedence over the coal industry’s desire to make a quick buck at the expense of our local families.”

The Sierra Club is represented by attorneys David Bahr, Law Offices of David Bahr; Jessica Yarnall Loarie, Sierra Club Law Program; and Duane Bosworth, Davis Wright Tremaine.

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Avatar of magix When my oldest son, a Marine, left for war and crossed the border from Kuwait into Iraq in March 2003 I started writing my conscience. After two tours that young combat veteran’s mother is now an ardent peace activist and advocate for social, environmental and economic justice. MGx has matured since those early vents and ramblings and now covers relevant and important local and regional matters in addition to national and global affairs.

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7 Responses to "Port of Coos Bay loses transparency battle in Coal Export Public Records Case"

  1. Wim de Vriend
    Wim de Vriend  January 29, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    Of course, I hate to tell you “I told you so!”, but when the Port was slapped down by the district attorney (and before it appealed that order, resulting in the present court decision) I wrote to The World:

    Back when Allan Rumbaugh was port manager, he refused a document request, and I needed the district attorney to get him to comply. To discourage such prying the port then started charging, and I have spent hundreds of dollars for their documents since. That is why, when your reporter asked if I was going to give the port a free copy of my recent book about them, I said no; they could darn well buy one. Although, paid for or free, I doubt that they are willing to face the truth about their machinations. That truth is that they have set this area’s economy back decades.

    For a very long time now, the Port of Coos Bay has worked on the assumption that it is not answerable to the people. A couple of recent examples were the port commission’s approval of Bishop’s request to conduct all negotiations in secrecy, and the manufactured ‘emergency” to prepare the railroad to haul chips for Roseburg Forest Products.

    Back in 1986 they created a legal cover for that attitude through blatant election fraud. While pretending that the state of Oregon was going to give the port more money, they filched it from the local people instead. Far worse, using that same lure, they destroyed the people’s right to elect the port commissioners – and to get rid of them.

    And here we are, with a run-down waterfront that gives Coos Bay a bad name, a waterfront whose redevelopment has been blocked for five years already by the port’s useless railroad tracks. And nothing will change, unless we do something about it.

    Reply
  2. The Reminder  January 29, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    This has the potential to open more doors than our local politicians want opened. There appears to be a concerted effort to help then hide their involvement in bringing these unhealthy enterprises to our area. Our elected reps use to deny their involvement in these schemes, until they thought the public was disinterested, then they did not try to hide their involvement so much. Yes I’m talking about Peter, Arnie, Joanne and now Caddy. They have all been there at the drawing board and helped to move the chess pieces. The line of involvement goes right to the door of our last governor and our current one as well. Thanks to all the people who are forcing this out into the daylight.

    Reply
  3. susanp  January 29, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    Word of the day, mumpsimus.

    It will be interesting to read in the World paper tomorrow their take on this important matter. Well, maybe tomorrow, maybe never.

    Reply
  4. Pig Nuts  January 29, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    Speaking of the Port & it’s railroad, I think it would be in Coos Bay’s best interest for city council to pass an ordinance requiring that all rail-cars be free of graffiti. A no tolerance policy for parking numerous rail cars along the 101 making Coos Bay even more unbecoming to visitors & its citizens. Coos bay city council shall present the port with a color pallet of no more than four acceptable colors to be used to paint said rail-car consisting of one solid color corner to corner.

    Reply
    • Avatar of magix
      magix  January 29, 2013 at 9:44 PM

      Last week the engines and a long line of cars were parked between Florence and Mapleton next to the highway.

      Reply
  5. themguys  January 30, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    I just spent a month in Fresno, of all places. Every hour on the hour you have four or five LOCAL news channels, LOCAL news anytime you want it. Ever think about this? The entire Western half of the state of Oregon, south of Newport, has NO local news outlets for the public. Not one. Every news org. has pulled out now. I am astounded at the physical area of Oregon which has NO legitimate, dependable news organization. Why is that? Why can’t this large area support even ONE teevee station? It’s just not a good thing, having no proven reliable news outlet for such a large area of land. It’s not safe either, an informed population is critical to a functioning population.

    Reply
    • Pig Nuts  January 30, 2013 at 9:47 AM

      Do you really want every hour on the hour reports of Little Al digging toilet paper out of his biker buddies ass? It would be nice to get tsunami reports real time instead of a day or two after. But please not a tsunami of reports on Little Al riding Biotch with the Walrus…

      Reply

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