Overwhelming majority of crowd oppose largest proposed crude oil terminal in N. America
Clark County, WA – In what is believed to be the largest turnout for a public hearing in Clark County history, more than 1000 people attended today’s hearing on the proposed Tesoro Savage oil terminal in Vancouver along the Columbia River. An overwhelming majority of attendees oppose the terminal. Local elected leaders, health professionals, Tribal leaders, union officials, business owners, faith leaders and other community members spoke up about the impacts of the terminal on the health and safety of communities and the Columbia River.
Pointing to recent derailments across North America, much of the testimony on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the terminal focused on the increased risk of oil train accidents.
“These incidents have occurred on new railroad tracks and old railroad tracks, with the old rail cars and the new rail cars. With the increase in rail traffic the risk of a catastrophic oil train accident would increase dramatically,” said Laurent Picard, a firefighter and Hood River City Councilmember. “There is no way to mitigate a massive spill no matter what level of training. Containment of a spill would be impossible. All that could be done is to evacuate an area and let it burn.”
The DEIS study predicts an oil train derailment on average every other year, but critics say the study is downplaying the risks.
“Forty-seven people are dead yet Quebec was not listed as worst case scenario. They continue to downplay the risks,” said Jared Smith, President of International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 4 in Vancouver. “We’ve been told by local firefighters that they aren’t prepared and they can’t come in to get us. We don’t want to work around these oil trains and this facility.”
Speakers also testified about what’s at stake for fisheries and the maritime economy of the Columbia River in the face of a major oil spill. Oil from four trains per day coming into the proposed terminal would be transferred to oil tankers and barges for shipment down the river.
“When you talk about fishing for most of our reservations it makes up 50% of employment. And it’s how we feed our people,” said Carlos Smith, Treasurer, Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission. “When it comes to oil spills it’s not a question of if it’s going to happen but when it’s going to happen.”
“What we’re fighting for today is the future of fishing on the Columbia River,” said Bob Rees, a fishing guide and Executive Director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders. “The fish that come out of the Columbia are caught up and down the Oregon and Washington coasts and Alaska. Why would we risk this already established industry? It just doesn’t pencil out.”
Health professionals point to the health risks of diesel fumes from oil trains and toxic emissions from the terminal. The Washington State Medical Association passed a resolution at its annual meeting to address concerns recognized broadly within the medical community.
“Doctors are deeply troubled by the well-documented health and safety impacts of these proposals. In the eyes of physicians, this project is a potential community-wide public health disaster that we should not allow,” said Dr. Elisabeth Lee, a family medicine physician from Clark County.
The Tesoro Savage proposal is opposed by the Vancouver City Council, Vancouver Firefighters Union IAFF Local 452, ILWU Local 4, Columbia Waterfront LLC, the City of Portland, the Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission, the sportfishing community, the environmental community, and people from all walks of life across the Northwest. Comments on the DEIS will be taken until January 22.
Liz Terhaar, Columbia Riverkeeper, c. 503.784.5324
Ryan Rittenhouse, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, c. 440.796.9695
Mark Glyde, Resource Media, c. 206.227.4346