A huge oil terminal along the Columbia River
that would increase train traffic through the Columbia River Gorge and transfer
oil to barges and ships at the Port of Vancouver was denied a permit by the
council tasked with evaluating the project’s impacts.
The Washington State Energy Site Evaluation
Council, after completing an Environmental Impact Statement on Vancouver
Energy’s application to build and operate the rail to marine terminal, found
five significant and unavoidable impacts that would occur if the terminal was
to be built.
EFSEC staff recommended denying the permit and
the Council on Tuesday, November 28, followed that recommendation. That leaves
just one more step – the approval or disapproval of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
near the end of this year – before the project is completely dead.
“It has been a long process with voluminous
information; probably the longest process in this council’s history — with
issues of great significance that have never been faced by this council
before,” interim EFSEC Chair Roselyn Marcus said.
With newly-elected members that have opposed
the oil terminal to take office in January, the Port of Vancouver is expected
to take the additional step of canceling the Port’s lease with Vancouver Energy
the first of the year.
The five unavoidable impacts are:
--Socioeconomic impacts to Vancouver’s Fruit
--Fire and medical service response delays due
to increased rail traffic.
--Increased accidents and deaths in the rail
corridor as a result of increased train traffic.
--Potential impacts to the dock and transfer
pipeline, which could result in a spill, due to liquefaction of some soils in
the event of a large earthquake such as the Cascadia Subduction Zone
--The impacts from a fire spill, or explosion
at the facility.
Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of the
Tesoro and Savage companies, had proposed to build a $210 million terminal that
would be capable of transferring an average of 360,000 barrels of oil per day
from crude oil unit trains barges or ships that would transit the Columbia
River and head for refineries along the West Coast. The company promised that
it would create more than 300 jobs during construction and hundreds more
on-site and off-site jobs during operations.
Operations of the terminal and the resulting
shipping could also impact aquatic species, according to the EIS. One way for
that to occur is for juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating downstream in the
Columbia River could be stranded due to deep-draft vessel wakes. However, those
are impacts that could be mitigated by restoring more habitat along the
The study also looked at the risk of crude oil
spills by train, during transfer at the facility to barges and ships, finding
that the likelihood of a spill somewhere along the supply chain varied widely.
EFSEC calculated a spill of nine barrels or less during transfer at the dock
had the highest annual probability at 1 in 14. A spill of 50,000 barrels of oil
or more while on trains was the least likely to occur, with a probability of 1
in 48,000. Although unlikely, according to the EIS, the risk is severe if these
accidents would happen.
“The proposed Tesoro crude-by-rail terminal
would send five loaded ‘bomb trains’ down the Columbia River each day. This is
flatly unacceptable. The Council’s decision reflects the reality of this danger
and the community’s overwhelming opposition to this project,” said Dan Serres,
Conservation Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “Governor Inslee has an obvious
choice to make: it’s time for Washington to move on from reckless oil train
In a statement, Vancouver Energy said it is
“extremely disappointed” by the decision.
“EFSEC has set an impossible standard for new
energy facilities based on the risk of incidents that the Final Environmental
Impact Statement characterizes as extremely unlikely. The FEIS confirmed that
construction and normal operation of the facility would have no significant
unavoidable impacts that cannot be mitigated,” the statement read.
EFSEC will deliver the recommendation to Gov.
Inslee’s office by December 29. The ultimate decision will be his. At the same
time, the company will have 20 days to ask for a reconsideration of EFSEC’s
The Final Environmental Impact Statement is at
--CBB, December 4, 2015, “Draft EIS: Oil
Trains, Proposed Vancouver Terminal, Deep Draft Ships Could Impact Listed