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Washington Governor Rejects Columbia River Oil Terminal Project At Vancouver
Posted on Friday, February 02, 2018 (PST)

Washington’s governor may have ended Vancouver Energy’s bid to build one of the nation’s largest oil by rail terminals in Vancouver, alongside the Columbia River, with his rejection of the project this week.

 

In a Jan. 29 letter to Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, Gov. Jay Inslee said that after considering the proposed oil terminal’s location, “I am concerned about the likelihood of an oil spill impacting the Columbia River or reaching the Pacific Ocean. The Council found that the impacts of a Columbia River oil spill on water quality, wetlands, and fish and wildlife would be significant and cannot be sufficiently mitigated. To the extent these risks cannot be sufficiently mitigated, they must be avoided.”

 

EFSEC had completed an environmental impact statement for the project in late November 2017, and had recommended to the governor the project’s rejection.

 

Inslee also found that given the likelihood of a large magnitude earthquake the project presents an “unacceptable and catastrophic risk to the public,” as well as the risk that fires or explosions at the facility could pose to workers and the community.

 

“The Council has thoroughly examined these and other issues and determined that it is not possible to adequately mitigate the risks, or eliminate or minimize the adverse impacts of the facility, to an acceptable level,” Inslee said. “When weighing all of the factors considered against the need for and potential benefits of the facility at this location, I believe the record reflects substantial evidence that the project does not meet the broad public interest standard necessary for the Council to recommend site certification.”

 

Gov. Inslee’s letter to EFSEC is at https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/documents/InsleelettertoEFSECTesoroSavage.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

 

Vancouver Energy expressed disappointment in the Inslee’s decision.

 

“With this decision, the Governor is rejecting much-need family-wage jobs and over $2 billion in economic value for Souhwest Washington,” a company statement says. “The decision also forgoes the opportunity to bolster America’s energy security by providing state-of-the-art infrastructure that enables environmental benefits and a cleaner energy future.

 

“This decision sends a clear anti-development message from state leadership that will have far-reaching negative impacts for industries across Washington State.”

 

In a unanimous vote Jan. 9, the Port of Vancouver board of commissioners gave notice to Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of the Tesoro and Savage companies, that it must provide all the licenses, permits and approvals required to operate the facility by March 31, or the Port would terminate the company’s lease.

 

The company has 30 days to appeal the governor’s decision to Thurston County Superior Court. The company says it is weighing its options.

 

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission executive director, Jaime Pinkham, said that the “Governor’s decision on the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal showed that the health of the Columbia River and the safety of its citizens matters most. The denial of Vancouver Energy’s permit to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the nation is a decision that we all celebrate. Throughout the application process, the Yakama Nation, Umatilla Tribe, and CRITFC vigorously asserted the interests of the Columbia River and those who depend on it. Today’s denial is based on real risks to our communities and the Columbia River.”

 

Pinkham continued, warning that “we must remain vigilant. There are other challenges facing the Columbia River Basin, but today’s victory shows us that they can be overcome when we work together.”

 

Vancouver Energy had proposed to build the $210 million terminal that would be capable of transferring an average of 360,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day between 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 EFSEC’s 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 Columbia River.

 

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.

 

“Governor Inslee reviewed the overwhelming evidence of the harms and risks to our state and came to the only logical conclusion: Washington said no,” said Kristen Boyles, the Earthjustice attorney who represented environmental and community groups during the EFSEC process.

 

Also see:

 

--CBB, December 1 2017, “Washington Energy Site Council Denies Permit For Huge Oil Terminal On Columbia River,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439892.aspx

 

--CBB, December 4, 2015, “Draft EIS: Oil Trains, Proposed Vancouver Terminal, Deep Draft Ships Could Impact Listed Salmonids,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435639.aspx

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