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Study Shows Support for Export Expansion

A new research poll came out this week, noting that Washington voters, 2-to-1, support the export expansions in the state. There’s no wonder –think of the economic impact these terminals would have on the region. A recent study from the National Mining Association actually captures the economic benefits coal exports could provide for Oregon, and the projected value of these exports is worth considering for a moment.

This study caught my attention for two reasons: it found that Oregon already reaps the economic benefits from coal exports and it also found there are substantial economic gains that coal exports provide.

According to the research, Oregon is home to about 620 jobs that are indirectly related to coal exports, resulting in about $35 million worth of labor income. Additionally coal exports add a gross value of about $69 million to our state annually. This is a huge economic boost –all stemming from indirectly exporting coal. Imagine what would transpire if we directly exported coal –think of the huge economic boost in store.

Another finding from this report caught my eye:  Every 1 million tons of coal exports creates on average 1,300 jobs. Think about that for a second, especially considering that the Port of Morrow it is expected to ship up to 8 million tons of coal per year. At full capacity, it would create a staggering 10,400 direct and indirect jobs. This is an enormous boost to our state, not to mention the indirect benefits we’d receive if Washington authorized their proposed export terminals, too.

We’re not talking about insignificant job growth; we’re talking about long-term, family wage jobs. The study found that the average labor income for the total wages and benefits of coal related export jobs is, […]

By |July 29th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

How Coal Impacts the Developing World

On the heels of President Obama’s climate change initiative, the World Bank announced that they will no longer fund coal-fired power plants in under privileged countries. While this announcement will not directly affect coal exports, it sets a dangerous precedent for the development of underprivileged nations and global poverty. Although opposition groups vilify any coal use, they’re missing the larger, global impact: Without access to affordable energy, developing nations will be kept, unnecessarily, impoverished.

Access to energy is essential for two main reasons: community health and economic prosperity.

For me personally, I can’t imagine what it would be like to live without access to safe energy, making daily tasks potentially deadly. With over 2.5 billion people without access to an energy grid, developing countries need access to sustainable to heat their homes and cook food. In fact, cooking with unsanitary and unsafe items are catalysts for diseases. By reducing poverty, and consequently reducing pollution and increasing lifespans, energy sources, like coal, provide a foundation for economies to develop.

I’ve seen this devastation first hand – communities suffering while attempting to care of basic needs, like food and warmth – when I was in Africa in the 90s and again while I was in Afghanistan with the Oregon National Guard.

Once basic economic needs are met, developing regions can start building their economies. Energy is a fundamental necessity in economic growth. Communities need cheap, reliable energy resources to provide the foundation for manufacturing and industrial growth. Without this resource, these areas would have limited economic potential.

The World Coal Association estimates that in 2035 “one billion people will still be without electricity, and 2.7 billion without access to clean cooking fuels.” This is an extraordinary amount of people living without basic […]

By |July 24th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Derailing Economic Growth

Last week, a train derailed southeast of La Grande raising some concern about the safety surrounding freight trains. While Union Pacific has launched a full investigation in response to the incident, opposition groups are using this accident to propagate popular myths about train travel, especially as it pertains to coal trains.  I thought it would be helpful to debunk the common, baseless claims about rail travel and tout the benefits of rail.

Besides the fabricated topic of coal dust, there are three main topics coal opponents like to point in regards to an uptake in rail transportation: rail safety, increased rail traffic, and overall traffic delays.

First and foremost, freight travel is one of the safest and greenest forms of transportation. Like any form of transportation, there can be accidents, like the one we saw last week; however, freight rail is no more prone to train derailments than any other rail transportation, including coal trains. Our state, fortunately, has export opportunities and private economic growth, which provides the means and the need for rail maintenance –something Oregon rail industries have done a great deal of.

Opposition groups also point to the traffic delays as a cause for concern. In reality, studies have estimated that local rail crossing delays would be limited to about 10 minutes a day –even with the increase in rail use. If you remember, Oregon and Washington rail traffic is still significantly below the pre-recession highs. Any increase in rail traffic would still be below that rail traffic our region handled before 2008, meaning that rail traffic is a result of an affluent economy.  As a side note, 120 rail car trains are becoming the norm for other commodities like wheat, so I wonder if […]

By |July 18th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

My Testimony on Port of Morrow

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality hosted public hearings on the proposed export expansion at the Port of Morrow,  and of course, I, and many export supporters, weighed in. Our state is facing a crossroads –we can continue to allow export opportunities fall by the wayside or we can stand up for our international trade and export industry.

I used my two minutes to testify about the need for private investments to ensure the longevity of our export industries. The investment in coal will provide expanded export opportunities for other bulk commodity industries, like agriculture and timber.

In my testimony, I took time to negate the common falsehoods opposition groups cling to, like the baseless claims surrounding coal dust. Then, I traced the instances of export mishaps our region has endured, such as the alar apple scare, the decline of the timber industry, and the spotted owl incident, due to the fear mongering and scare tactics of opposition groups. I wanted to make it clear: We cannot repeat this export history.

If you were not able to partake in these hearings, hope is not lost. I urge you to send a public comment in support of the export expansion at the Port of Morrow facility.  You can view my testimony below.

 
Testimony of
Jeff Kropf
Oregon Farmer, former State Representative
on
Proposed Port of Morrow Export Facilities
before the
Department of Environmental Quality
July 9, 2013
Good morning, I am the Honorable Jeff Kropf, fifth generation Oregon farmer, former state Representative and advocate for expanding Oregon’s export capacity.

As an Oregon farmer, I would like to express my strong support for the proposed coal export facility at the Port of Morrow. I think this is an opportunity for our state to foster the trade and export industry that […]

By |July 11th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Mayors for Exports

A recent opinion editorial in The Oregonian by two local mayors, Diane Pohl, mayor of Clatskanie, and Sandy Toms, mayor of Boardman, hit the nail on the head about the critical issue behind Oregon’s debate surrounding the proposed export facilities – this is a debate about securing stable, long-term economic growth for all Oregon communities.

For rural regions in Oregon, the decline of commodity export industries, such as timber, has dealt a severe economic blow. Communities like Portland may not appreciate the importance of investments like the proposed export facilities, but many other Oregon communities do. It’s important the needs and interests of the entire state be considered.

The quote below gets to the crux of the mayors’ message:

“With the near elimination of timber harvesting and federal county payments, we are struggling to hold our communities together. Columbia County is on the verge of losing its county jail, and law enforcement staffing is at historic lows. Morrow County desperately needs new funding for its public schools. We need to use our natural advantages, such as our ability to move bulk commodities safely to foreign ports. Coal, which has traveled through our region for decades, is just another commodity we move.

These affected areas rely on industrial investment to spur their local economy, and the needs of communities like Clatskanie are fundamentally different from the priorities of other regions of our state. With the complexity of our economy, we need to cooperate as a state and take full advantage of all opportunities to expand our economy.  Expanded exports for rural Oregon goods benefit everyone in the state by making Oregon a more competitive and attractive place to do business.

The proposed export terminals are providing the investment dollars to make […]

By |July 9th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Kitzhaber Celebrates OR Ag Exports – Selectively

Governor Kitzhaber recently sat down with a local news outlet to promote the “Celebrate Oregon Agriculture” campaign, which emphasizes the importance of Oregon agriculture and exports. As a farmer myself, I appreciate any campaign that supports the farming industry; however, by not supporting the coal export expansion, Governor Kitzhaber is undermining an opportunity for Oregon’s agriculture to expand exports in international markets.

By opposing the proposed coal export facilities, the Governor is indirectly hurting smaller exporters, including the agriculture industry, by undermining potential economic benefits and expansion opportunities the coal export facilities would provide.

The connection between coal exports and agriculture may not be immediately evident to everyone, so let me explain. Private investment and industry development are the catalyst to expand export capabilities for our entire state. These private investments present new export opportunities and increased access to rail for smaller exporters, like me.  John Stuhmiller, president of the Washington Farm Bureau, sums it up best, “More trains and bigger terminals will help Northwest farmers, who export most of their wheat and some of their other crops.”

Oregon’s agriculture thrives when it’s given the ability to meet domestic and international demand –impairing either opportunity negatively impacts the agriculture community. As Governor Kitzhaber mentioned during the news segment, “Agriculture has been one of our bright spots during the recession. It’s our second highest trade sector after technology, and in 2012, 25 of our 36 counties actually showed an increase in their overall agriculture product.” While it’s important our farming industry is growing, this growth will be wasted unless there are new opportunities and outlets to sell the product.

There’s a growing demand for agriculture products in Asian markets. In fact, Governor Kitzhaber mentioned finding Oregon products in small markets […]

By |June 28th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Kropf in the Portland Tribune

Check out my latest piece in the Portland Tribune.   Excerpt here:
“Oregon’s economy needs coal exports”
The recent article (“How much coal dust will spill in the gorge,” Sustainable Life insert in the Lake Oswego Review, June 13), which makes unfounded claims about coal dust, serves as a perfect example of coal export opponents’ willingness to use false claims and scare tactics to undermine the proposed export facility.

It’s time we refocus the debate and look at the economic and export opportunities the expansion will provide Oregon.

By |June 27th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Three Cheers for the Engineers!

At a Congressional committee hearing this week, the Army Corps of Engineers reconfirmed that the agency would not conduct a regional, all-encompassing environmental review of the proposed export facilities in Oregon and Washington. All this means is that the agency will not make any unnecessary changes to the review process –a big step in the right direction in expanding our export facilities.

The Army Corps of Engineers have a thorough environmental review process in place –one that will look at each terminal individually, as per usual. This review is in addition to Oregon’s rigorous review processes, something I observed and oversaw as a state legislator. Environmentalists claimed that because of the export facilities proximity to one another, there should be an additional review –there shouldn’t. If each terminal meets the stringent standards set out by the Army Corps of Engineers, they should be authorized additional export activity.

Imagine for a second the precedent that multiple, far-reaching environmental reviews would cause for future export expansions. If a soybean export facility and an aircraft export facility both sought permits to expand their exports, would these unrelated facilities be subject to the same regional, wide-spread review? It would be absurd to think so, but if the Army Corps had set a precedent of regional reviews for export expansions in relative proximity to one another, it would be within the realm of possibilities.

Environmental and opposition groups are willing to claim anything to try and stall these coal export facilities basing their resistance on pure speculation, not facts. The same Congressional hearing the Army Corps testified in, the mayor of Seattle, Mike McGinn, testified in opposition to the coal export facility with testament full of conjectures and scare tactics. We cannot allow […]

By |June 21st, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Beaverton Examines Export Expansion

Beaverton City Council recently met to discuss a resolution opposing coal trains and the coal export expansion; the council will vote on the resolution next week. It troubles me that a small number of Oregonians, primarily from urban areas, are blocking economic development and job opportunities for fellow Oregonians. Our state has seen other export opportunities come and go, and we cannot let a few individuals ruin our state’s coal export opportunity.

Resolution supporters are simply on an anti-coal campaign willing to stop economic development at all costs. This is evident seeing as the proposed coal trains are not even expected to run through Beaverton and there are no projects under active development in Oregon that would add dedicated rail service for coal. This resolution is less about Beaverton and more about the anti-coal precedent Beaverton hopes to set.

With appeals grounded in emotion rather than science, export opponents are indifferent to the economic development at stake and ignoring the international implications.

Oregon is still struggling with a high unemployment rate with pockets of our state fairing far worse than others. In most cases, counties with higher unemployment rates are the counties that have relied on more traditional industries. For example, Grant County, which relies heavily on manufacturing, agriculture, and the timber industry, has an unemployment rate of over 12 percent.  The urban areas of our state should not dictate economic development throughout the state and deny jobs to needy rural communities.

Not only are the export opponents attempting to deny an economic opportunity for Oregon’s natural resource producers like me, they’re potentially denying America a viable export opportunity. Blocking our region export terminals won’t do anything to halt the export of coal; it will only export jobs to […]

By |June 18th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Sierra Club’s Lawsuit Could Hinder Growth

Recently, the Sierra Club and a few other environmental groups formally filed a lawsuit against BNSF railways and coal companies, alleging that uncovered coal trains pollute waterways. This is another example of a small group of individuals attempting to sway public discourse by using baseless and faulty reasoning to ignore the facts.

Whether through lawsuits or expanded environmental reviews, opposition groups are making exaggerated claims against the proposed coal export expansion. Not only are their claims unsubstantiated, but they are affecting an engine for region’s economic growth.

As I’ve mentioned previously, our state has a thorough environmental review process, something I witnessed in my years as a legislator and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. In this process, industry growth will be systematically reviewed before, during, and after the construction of any development. This review will allow our state to continue to hold an economic edge, while preserving the environment. It has been a balanced and successful approach.

Delays to the review process, hinder the state’s authorization process, and as a result, delay the private investment for our state. Recently, the Sierra club formally filed a petition for an expanded environmental review of the proposed Northwest coal export facilities–an unnecessary review.

With our state still battling high unemployment –especially in rural areas that rely on more traditional, natural resource industries – we need to ensure that private industries have an opportunity to thrive without being burdened by inconsistent review processes.

It worries me that these groups are swaying the public opinion about not only the coal export terminals, but industry development in general in our state. Just a few weeks ago, some of these groups were opposing not only coal export expansion, but any industrial development of land at Port […]

By |June 12th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments