Sierra Club appeals to D.A. over Port fees

Sierra Club appeals to D.A. over Port fees
The Sierra Club has filed an appeal with the Coos County District Attorney's Office over a fee the Port of Coos Bay is charging them for the release of an estimated 2,500 pages of information.

Laura Stevens, with the Sierra Club of Oregon, says the people of Oregon have the right "to know the truth about a project that could contaminate waterways, endanger the local economy and threaten public health."

They have requested information under the Oregon Public Records Act about development plans that could pave the way for coal to be exported from Coos Bay.

Port spokesperson Elise Hamner says the Port has always been as open as possible about the process.

"We have a policy of full disclosure when it comes to public records, and we follow that policy to every extent that we can...barring confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements."

The problem, she says, is with the sheer scope of the request.

The 2,500 pages would cost about $20,000 in legal fees, staff time and copies.

Stevens believes the fee should be waived, because under Oregon Law such fees can be waived when the public interest will be served by the release of the information.

Hamner says they would have to have legal advice on most, if not all, pieces of information to make sure they are not in violation of any confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement.

She says the Sierra Club has the right to ask for the information, but they should be responsible for the cost.

"If we go to the process of coming up with these public records it will be expensive and Sierra Club is asking the tax-payers in the Port of Coos Bay's taxing district to pay for this. We don't think they should have to."

As for the Sierra Club's assertion that the Port is paving the way for the export of coal, the Port says that, at this point, they have not entered into any land sale or option agreements with any coal or other bulk commodity shippers.

Hamner adds that they openly discuss such proposals at their Port meetings, which are open to the public.