First Day of Hearings on Vancouver, WA Oil Terminal Begins with Broad Opposition

5 week long process will examine impacts of project; early testimony highlights calls for denial

June 27 marked the first day of hearings for the adjudication process on Tesoro-Savage’s proposed oil terminal in Vancouver, Washington. Over 200 people rallied outside and packed the hearing in red shirts to show their opposition to oil trains and support requests from tribes, cities, and the Washington Department of Natural Resources to deny the terminal.

“This terminal proposal is a public health disaster waiting to happen,” said Dr. Beth Lee, a family practice physician from Clark County who spoke to the assembled crowd. “Why would we voluntarily put our homes, schools, and communities at risk? We must learn from what happened in Mosier and say no to this oil terminal.”

Along with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, this process will provide Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) with information to guide their decision on permits for the largest crude oil by rail proposal in the nation.

The hearing comes a little over three weeks after Northwest communities were horrified by the oil train derailment and fire in Mosier, Oregon.

Highlights from the pre-trial testimony include:

  • A recommendation from the Washington Department of Natural Resources to deny the permit due to fire risks. DNR wrote, “Because of the potential for tremendous catastrophic loss associated with shipment of crude-by-rail…the application for site certification for the Proposal should be denied.”
  • A letter from the Washington Attorney General’s Counsel for the Environment, stating, “Human error piloting a vessel in the Columbia River or one broken bolt on a track could lead to a significant environmental and public safety disaster.”
  • A request from the City of Vancouver to deny the permit due to the unaddressed financial liability from an oil train disaster in Vancouver, which the City estimates could exceed $5-$6 billion.
  • Clark County’s analysis that the risks to the Jail Work Center (JWC) are beyond what is acceptable for public safety; if the terminal was built the JWC would have to be moved;
  • And more – key points compiled here.

The hearing schedule is as follows:

  • June 27-June 30 – hearing in Vancouver at Clark College Conference Center, 18700 SE Mill Plain Blvd.
  • July 5-7; July 11-14; July 18-21 – hearing in Olympia at Red Lion Hotel, 2300 Evergreen Park Dr. SW
  • July 25-29 – hearing in Vancouver again at Clark College Conference Center; public hearing the afternoon of July 29.

While decisionmaking moves forward on the Tesoro-Savage terminal proposal, concerns remain high around existing oil train traffic through the Northwest. Governors Brown and Inslee, as well as Senators Merkley and Wyden have called for a moratorium on oil trains until safety can be improved.

Learn more about the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal here.