Fossil Fuels

Inslee Sides with State Regulators, Opposes a Massive Oil Terminal in Southwest Washington

A plan for a massive oil terminal along the Columbia River project is looking less likely after Inslee's decision on Monday.

By Manola Secaira January 29, 2018

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While the Port of Vancouver had initially supported Vancouver Energy's plans to build an oil terminal, they decided to end the lease at the end of March if it didn't require necessary permits.

Governor Jay Inslee on Monday dealt another blow to Vancouver Energy's proposed massive oil terminal along the Columbia River in Southwest Washington by rejecting a permit for the site, siding with state regulators that the risks outweighed the benefits.

It’s been a long five years for Vancouver Energy’s proposed $210 million project, which would ship over 131 million barrels of oil annually down the Columbia River. While the Port of Vancouver initially supported the project, officials have since taken a few steps back. Earlier this month, they decided to end the project's lease by March 31 if Vancouver Energy couldn’t provide the necessary permits to continue. 

In a letter to the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, Inslee echoed the concerns of many of the oil terminal's strongest critics—that possible earthquakes would involve “catastrophic risk to the public” at the proposed site of the project, that an oil spill impacting the Columbia River is likely, and that the project could potentially be a fire or explosion hazard for the surrounding community.

“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,” Inslee wrote. 

Vancouver Energy, a joint venture between Testoro and Savage, still has 30 days to appeal Inslee’s decision. But Dan Serres—conservation director at the Columbia Riverkeeper, an organization that's been fighting the terminal for years—said he doesn’t think the company will pursue it. Testoro and Savage didn't immediately respond to comment.

The project included plans for five long oil trains to transport the oil daily, passing through Spokane, the Columbia River Gorge, and the City of Vancouver.

Environmentalists brought concerns about the project from the very beginning, often pointing to the track record of the two entities, particularly Testoro. An oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon in 2016, which started fires in the Columbia River Gorge, brought more attention to the risks involved in oil terminals. Hearings about the oil terminal were packed and the EFSEC, Serres said, received a record number of comments.

“We learned in Mosier that things are not running perfectly and that oil trains are very risky,” Serres said. “We’re very excited about the decision.”

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