- Eye on Media
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.