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County Coal Vote Controversy

Despite the controversy surrounding coal trains running through Eugene and Lane County, the Board of Lane County Commissioners had scheduled a vote in support of coal trains and the Coos Bay Bulk Terminal for Oct. 3 with no public input. After outcry against the resolution arose, Commission Chair Sid Leiken suggested the vote be moved to Oct. 17. The commission will take public comments at that time, and also at its Oct. 16 vote in Florence.

Listed on the agenda under the heading “County Administration” was an item called “Port of Coos Bay Bulk Terminal Support,” to be brought up by Intergovernmental Relations Manager Alex Cuyler, who says on his Twitter feed that he is, in simpler terms, a lobbyist. Because the materials associated with the Coos Bay vote were not posted until the morning of Oct. 2 it was unclear what the vote would be on. The materials consisted of a “white paper” giving background on the issue and a resolution drawn up in favor of supporting the Coos Bay terminal and its associated coal trains.

Cuyler told EW in an email that the vote was not made public and the agenda item did not specifically say the vote would concern coal because “The Lane County Board of Commissioners routinely considers controversial issues at its regular, publicly noticed meetings. The issue at hand is the bulk handling terminal.  The white paper and resolution reference the materials to be handled, including coal.” 

During the commissioners’ meeting, it was announced the materials were not posted in time for the public to be fully aware of the vote because of an ill staffer. But Leiken also told the R-G that budget cuts are what delayed the information. Commissioner Rob Handy has complained that county agendas and associated materials are posted late, leaving him and fellow progressive Commissioner Pete Sorenson out of the loop on votes such as this. Both Handy and Sorenson called for a public hearing on the coal issue. 

Commissioner Jay Bozievich said at the meeting that he felt enough information was out there already. 

A resolution expresses the county’s opinion on an issue such as coal but does not determine whether coal can be shipped through Lane County. An anti-coal train resolution that has garnered a great deal of public attention was proposed by Alan Zelenka on the Eugene City Council agenda. It was hotly debated on Oct. 8. That resolution would have city attorneys research if Eugene could use state and federal public health and safety laws to stop coal from being transported through it. A council vote is scheduled for Oct. 22.