Wash. Gov denies oil terminal, HR city voices agreement

PETER CORNELISON speaks at a rally in Vancouver, Wash., where activist groups celebrated Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee’s denial of a Columbia River oil train terminal, seen in a live video stream by Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

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PETER CORNELISON speaks at a rally in Vancouver, Wash., where activist groups celebrated Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee’s denial of a Columbia River oil train terminal, seen in a live video stream by Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

A planned oil train terminal that has drawn controversy in Gorge communities suffered its heaviest blow yet when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee denied the project’s permit Monday, siding with environmental regulators.

The Tesoro-Savage terminal that was slated for the Columbia River shore in Vancouver would have boosted the number of fossil fuel trains rolling through the Gorge.

Inslee, a Democrat, highlighted issues that prompted his decision, including seismic risks at the site, as well as the potential for an oil spill and fire. He cited the state energy panel’s findings.

“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 wrote.

The Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) found that developers didn’t meet the burden of proof to show that the project proposed at the Port of Vancouver site would produce an overall benefit in balancing the need for energy and the public impact.

Opponents of the terminal celebrated the governor’s decision.

Peter Cornelison, a Hood River city council member and Friends of the Columbia Gorge staff member, spoke on behalf of the city at a rally held Jan. 29 in Vancouver by a coalition against the project. He lauded Inslee’s decision, and the advocacy by groups, municipalities and local Native American tribes.

“The derailment in Mosier in 2016 showed us that no communities on rail lines are safe from these dangerous oil trains,” Cornelison said.

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 coastal refineries.

Proponents said it would spur job growth and economic development while following environmental safety rules.

Regulators disagreed. After extensive hearings and review sessions, EFSEC outlined various risks attached to the project and in November recommended Inslee nix it.

Cornelison said the project involved transporting 15 million gallons of oil through the Scenic Area every day, and nearly tripling regional oil-by-rail traffic.

It wasn’t the first statement elected leaders from Hood River have made condemning the terminal, or oil train projects in general.

In late 2014, the city issued a resolution calling for a ban on fossil fuel shipments through the city. The next year, the county board of commissioners issued a resolution calling for tighter safeguards on oil transports.

Environmental groups and elected leaders redoubled their opposition to the Vancouver terminal following a fiery oil train derailment in Mosier during June 2016. Hood River was the closest Oregon city to Mosier, roughly seven miles west.

At Monday’s rally, Cornelison noted that the city’s anti-fossil fuel train statement, Resolution 2014-22, came almost two years in advance of the Mosier train wreck.

No one was hurt in the derailment or fire, but the incident roiled Gorge communities, prompted evacuations, and required an environmental cleanup process.

Cornelison said with the Tesoro-Savage project denied, “Hood River and all communities along the Columbia River can now focus on the clean energy economy that provides economic development while … protecting our communities and all the natural amenities that make the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area an international scenic treasure, and an outstanding place to live, work and recreate.”

According to Friends of the Gorge, Vancouver Energy has 30 days to appeal Inslee’s decision to Thurston County Superior Court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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