Oil Terminals

Photo credit: Natalie Jamerson

If built, proposed new and expanded terminals would dramatically increase the amount of oil handling capacity in the Northwest, from a capacity of around 376,000 barrels a day to over 1 million barrels a day. That is significantly more than the Keystone XL pipeline would have moved (830,000 barrels/day).

Oil terminals make poor neighbors. People living near the proposed terminals would be exposed to some of the same problems as neighbors of existing refineries including air pollution, safety risks, odor and noise.

Here are some of the largest and most controversial proposals, where communities are actively fighting them.

Click on the map to the right to see where the terminals are located across the Pacific Northwest >>

Columbia River

Tesoro Savage Oil Terminal (Vancouver, WA) – DEFEATED!

If built, Tesoro Savage would be the largest crude oil by rail terminal in the nation. With a capacity to handle 360,000 barrels per day four trains would be needed daily to deliver the oil and nearly filling a tanker 700 feet in length for shipment down the Columbia River.

Tesoro Savage could deal a major blow to Vancouver’s economy and quality of life. The project is in direct conflict with a $1.3 billion waterfront redevelopment plan that would build 3,300 new homes, as well as restaurants, shopping and office space. Twenty-two city blocks of the waterfront development would be within 100 feet of the rail line.

Tesoro Savage’s proposal is opposed by the Vancouver City Council, ILWU Local 4, Columbia Waterfront LLC, the Cities of Washougal and Spokane, the Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission, the environmental community, and people from all walks of life across the Northwest. Learn more about this project here.

NuStar Energy (Vancouver, WA) – Defeated 

NuStar Energy currently operates a bulk terminal at the Port of Vancouver on the Columbia River. The company is proposing to retrofit their facility to become an oil-by-rail terminal. NuStar Energy wants to receive an average of 22,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The company submitted its proposal to the City of Vancouver days before the City passed a moratorium on any new crude oil projects. Since NuStar Energy is proposing to retrofit their existing facility fewer permits required.

Global Partners (Port Westward, OR) – Operating

In 2012, without public input, Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery (after being bought out by a 3rd party private equity firm) transitioned quietly and quickly from an ethanol facility into a crude oil terminal. Global Partners then began shipping crude oil from Port Westward near Clatskanie, Oregon.

Seemingly overnight, Global Partners began receiving up to 30,000 barrels of crude oil per day. In 2013, Global Partners violated its permit and shipped six times more crude oil than was allowable through their Port Westward terminal. The State found that their actions were so egregious they labeled them a “serious violation” of state law. Yet, instead of shutting the oil terminal down, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued a nominal fine and granted a permit for a massive expansion.

Since then, the global oil sands have begun to shift. World prices for crude oil plummeted, effecting companies throughout the industry. Global Partners was no exception and in early 2016 laid off over half of the terminal workers and suspended oil transportation. In hopes of moving away from such a volatile industry, the company said it plans to transition to methanol or biofuels transportation.

We continue to watch closely the Port of St. Helens, a port with major potential for additional oil-by-rail projects. In 2017, we anticipate the Port again seeking to expand its industrial footprint by asking the county to rezone farmland for heavy industrial use. The Port’s oversight body authorized an attorney to draw-up the application. We defeated this effort in 2014 and anticipate the Port refining its application and going after more land for industrial development. We’ll stay engaged to ensure it doesn’t pave the way for new oil-by-rail.


On the table now is a proposed agreement between Portland General Electric (“PGE”) and Global Partners LP (“Global”) to sell nine bulk liquid storage tanks that could transform Port Westward, Oregon, located along the Columbia River, into a regionally significant crude oil export terminal. Under the proposed deal, Global would receive:

  • nine bulk liquid storage tanks, totaling 1.2 million barrels of storage capacity;
  • a 20-inch diameter pipeline connecting the tanks to the Port Westward dock; and
  • permission from PGE to expand certain rail leads in the Port Westward area and increase rail tank car traffic on those rail leads.

The Oregon Public Utilities Commission has final say on whether Global Partners can buy massive oil storage tanks from a neighboring industrial site at Port Westward, in Clatskanie, Oregon. The Commission can stop Global Partners’ tank farm expansion if it finds the sale is not “consistent with the public interest.” Oil terminals and oil-by-rail threaten public safety, clean water, and our climate.

After robust public testimony delivered by Columbia County residents, Northwest Steelheaders, health professionals, and concerned residents at a June 13, 2017 public hearing, the Oregon Public Utilities Commission (PUC) decided to seek additional information before voting to approve the sale. A second hearing will be scheduled at a later date.

Washington Coast
Two Mures Ben Nieves

Photo credit: Ben Nieves

Three major proposed oil terminals in Grays Harbor, near Aberdeen and Hoquiam on the coast, would have the combined capacity to handle nearly 164,000 barrels daily, fed by three loaded oil train deliveries every day. Of all the places in the Northwest that would be affected by a ramp-up in oil transport, none stands to be as profoundly transformed as Grays Harbor. If these three terminals are built, the risk of collision and oil spills will surge due to the dramatic increase in shipping traffic: major vessel traffic by more than 5 times, and tank vessel traffic by 44 times. That means between 293 and 428 tankers and tug barges annually, full of oil, would have to navigate the shallow, narrow, twelve-mile long shipping channel of Grays Harbor, which has limited deep water areas to stage ships or tugs. Such a huge surge in oil vessel traffic, in a place not suited to them is inviting disaster. A major oil spill could wreak havoc on the Dungeness Crab fishery and many other natural resource-based industries in the area. Marine resource dependent jobs support more than 30% of Grays Harbor’s workforce, according to a 2013 study by the University of Washington.

Westway Terminal Company – Defeated

Westway currently operates a bulk terminal at the Port of Grays Harbor, and is proposing a retrofit to receive 48,918 barrels of crude per day from oil train shipments. Since the company is proposing to retrofit their existing facility, there are relatively few permits required. The Washington Supreme Court breathed life into the Ocean Resources Management Act (ORMA), a state law that protects coastal ocean resources, and ruled that the law’s strict permitting requirements apply to crude oil shipping terminals. The ruling will effectively block a proposed crude-by-rail terminal in Hoquiam.

Imperium Renewables/Renewable Energy Group (REG) – Defeated

This biodiesel facility planned to retrofit its facility at the Port of Grays Harbor to receive crude oil during the height of early 2010s oil price spikes. But in early 2016, REG purchased the assets of Imperium and, after hearing the concerns of local community groups and the Quinault Nation, announced that their future plans would not include crude oil. That being said REG has expressed interest in expanding their facility but their plans are still unknown. We are currently awaiting more clarity from REG and remain vigilant to ensure that a crude oil terminal is not located on the outer coast.

U.S. Development Group – Defeated

In 2012, US Development proposed building a new oil-by-rail terminal that would have received 45,000 barrels of crude per day in Grays Harbor, the same area as the REG and Westway projects. Their proposal put the facility across the water from a National Wildlife Refuge and the project’s permit applications weren’t even discovered until after a public records request. The project was unanimously opposed by the nearby Aberdeen City Council and numerous community led organizations. In April 2016, the company opted out of its lease agreement with the port, quietly ending its bid to ship crude oil across Washington and through the state’s coastal waters.

Learn more about how Grays Harbor is saying no to oil – and what you can do to help.

Puget Sound & the Salish Sea

Photo credit: Natalie Jamerson

Shell Oil (Anacortes, WA) – Defeated 

In another sign that crude-by-rail is a losing proposition, Shell Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes recently announced that it is dropping its plans to construct a crude-by-rail facility. Originally proposed in 2014, community opposition and legal challenges forced Shell and Skagit County to undertake a full environmental and public health review under the State Environmental Policy Act. That delay, growing local and regional opposition, and uncertain economics contributed to Shell’s decision.

“This is an extraordinary victory for the people of Skagit County and Washington State,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice who represented conservation groups in their legal challenge. “Having a full and transparent public process exposed everyone – including apparently Shell itself – to the risks and harms of this project.”

Read more from the press release.