Photo courtesy of Friends of the Columbia Gorge
ERIC STRID, of White Salmon, speaks out against an oil terminal proposed in Vancouver. Hearings before the state energy council wrapped up this week, marking a tonal shift as opponents and proponents await the council’s decision, expected in late 2016.
As of Friday, August 5, 2016
Gorge leaders spoke out against a proposed oil-by-marine terminal in Vancouver as hearings over the project’s fate came to a close July 29.
Washington State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) heard closing arguments for an environmental review of the terminal proposed by Vancouver Energy, a venture spearheaded by Tesoro Corp.
EFSEC is charged with recommending whether Washington Gov. Jay Inslee should approve or reject the 360,000-barrel per day oil hub at the Port of Vancouver, and panel’s decision is expected in late 2016.
At Friday’s hearing — the final chance for public oral testimony — local elected leaders and environmental advocates evoked the recent memory of Mosier, where a crude oil bearing train derailed and caught fire on June 3.
Arlene Burns, mayor of Mosier, gave the panel a stark depiction of the aftermath.
“We’re really still exhausted,” she said. “This is going to be an ongoing, long-term process that we’re going to be dealing with,” Burns said.
She noted that Mosier’s groundwater had been contaminated by oil during the spill. Drinking water has been declared safe, but concerns remain for the rainy season washing out remaining oil in the ground.
Peter Cornelison, a Hood River City Council member and field representative for Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, argued the risks of a new terminal — and boosted train traffic — would affect all river communities.
Proponents of the terminal highlighted economic benefits and stressed a need for United States’ independence in the oil industry. They said the terminal would be held to regulatory safeguards.
“We believe the evidence has demonstrated that this project is necessary to secure a strong sustainable reliable supply of energy for the citizens of Washington,” Jay P. Derr, an attorney representing Tesoro, said.
“We ask the council to recognize and remember the benefits the Port of Vancouver provides, and work hard to avoid … hurting those structures and processes that allow the port to provide those benefits to the community,” said David Bartz, a port attorney.
Most testimony disagreed with the terminal’s backers about the project’s safety and economic value.
Washington Attorney General’s Office came out last week against the terminal. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the potential benefits of the project are “dramatically outweighed by the potential risks and costs of a spill.”
The cities of Vancouver and Spokane also voiced opposition, a sentiment expressed in recent months by letters and resolutions by tribes, advocacy groups and governments throughout the region.
Lauren Goldberg, staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper, said the local group hopes in light of the Mosier derailment, EFSEC will recognize the risk of another fiery oil train wreck in the Columbia Gorge.
Both sides in the issue will now file closing written briefs, ending testimony. EFSEC is expected to issue a decision in late 2016. From there, Inslee will make a decision that can be appealed in state supreme court.