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Panel votes to deny Columbia River oil hub

OIL CARS stopped in Mosier after a train derailment June 3, 2016, seen from the Rock Creek area just east of the wrecked cars. A Washington state energy panel has recommended denial of an oil train terminal in Vancouver. The decision took place after years of opposition from Gorge activists and elected leaders against fossil fuel trains.

Photo by Patrick Mulvihill
OIL CARS stopped in Mosier after a train derailment June 3, 2016, seen from the Rock Creek area just east of the wrecked cars. A Washington state energy panel has recommended denial of an oil train terminal in Vancouver. The decision took place after years of opposition from Gorge activists and elected leaders against fossil fuel trains.



A Washington state energy panel has recommended denial of a proposed riverside oil train terminal in Vancouver that has drawn controversy in Columbia Gorge communities.

The state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) decided in a unanimous vote that the terminal’s developers did not meet the burden of proof to show the Port of Vancouver site on the Columbia River was acceptable.

However, the decision on whether to approve the project falls to Gov. Jay Inslee. EFSEC is expected to finalize their recommendation and forward it to the governor Dec. 19.

Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of Tesoro-Savage, pitched the oil hub plan in 2013. The facility would handle 360,000 barrels of oil per day from trains for storage, then loading onto tankers and ships bound for West Coast refineries.

Several elected leaders in Hood River, and environmental groups such as Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Columbia Riverkeeper, have spoken out against the project, as have representatives from other cities in the Gorge, citing environmental risks.

Michael Lang, Friends conservation director, termed the panel’s Nov. 28 unanimous decision “powerful.”

“It’s a huge victory for the Columbia River Gorge and the city of Vancouver … these unit trains of oil are very dangerous,” Lang said Tuesday.

“EFSEC made the right decision.”

Developers have asserted that the distribution terminal would follow environmental safeguards and create jobs.

Vancouver Energy told media outlets in an emailed statement Tuesday that the company was disappointed by EFSEC’s decision.

The panel “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,” Jeff Hymas, a Vancouver Energy spokesman, told the Associated Press.

(Hymas referred to regulators’ environmental impact statement, which outlined project risks.)

Inslee will have 60 days to respond to the recommendation, upon receiving it.

Lang explained that during a follow-up time period, interested parties such as Tesoro-Savage and others could file motions against the decision, leading to an additional legal process.

EFSEC, along with its decision, directed staff to draft final language for adoption in December.

Phuong Le of the Associated Press contributed to this report.



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