Final decision on Vancouver oil terminal nears

Following a recommendation by Washington state energy regulators to deny a Columbia River oil terminal, Gov. Jay Inslee will have the last say on the project’s outcome.

The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) on Dec. 19 finalized their recommendation to deny Vancouver Energy’s proposal to build an oil shipping facility in Vancouver. They also voted to send their report to the governor.

Inslee will have 60 days to make a decision after receiving EFSEC’s final draft of the report.

The terminal has drawn controversy in Gorge communities, including Hood River. Two environmental groups with staff based in town, Columbia Riverkeeper and Friends of the Columbia Gorge, are part of a legal coalition against the project.

Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of Tesoro-Savage, introduced 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.

Members of EFSEC signaled in November they would recommend denying the project. Their December follow-up action also outlined their reasoning, based on hearings and an environmental impact statement released in November followed by a permitting review.

The panel in their report to Inslee said, “The council concludes that Tesoro-Savage has failed to meet its burden of proving that the (terminal) sited at the port will produce a net benefit after balancing the need for abundant energy at a reasonable cost with the impact to the broad public interest. Therefore, we recommend that the Tesoro-Savage (siting application) be denied.”

The report outlined various risks of the project, and an increase in oil train traffic through the region.

Terminal proponents have lauded the economic development it would bring. The project would expectedly add nearly 300 jobs, and $8 million in labor income and economic value, EFSEC’s report noted.

In November, Vancouver Energy expressed disappointment that EFSEC was moving toward denying the project. Spokesman Jeff Hymas told the Associated Press that the council set “an impossible standard for new energy facilities based on the risk of incidents that the Final Environmental Impact Statement characterizes as extremely unlikely.”

Environmental groups have sharply opposed the project.

Rebecca Ponzio, campaign director of Stand Up To Oil, said, “We urge Governor Inslee to take decisive and swift action to deny this terminal. Vancouver and communities all along the Columbia River threatened by oil are ready to move forward with cleaner and safer economic development opportunities.”

The report EFSEC prepared for Inslee is roughly 100 pages long and accompanied by a 430-page supporting document that recaps the adjudication findings of fact, conclusion of law and order to proceed with the recommendation.

The Columbian newspaper reported that an Inslee spokeswoman wouldn’t reveal the governor’s thoughts on the project.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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