The Port of Longview commissioners voted unanimously to end negotiations with Waterside Energy, the backers of a controversial oil refinery and propane export terminal. Waterside proposed the first west coast oil refinery in 25 years and the first ever on the Columbia River.
Local educators, first responders, and conservation groups praised the Port’s decision. “I’ve taught in schools near oil refineries—the smell was hard to live with but the rate of childhood cancer was devastating. Today, the port commission did the right thing for Longview’s children,” said Krista Mead, elementary school teacher at Columbia Valley Garden Elementary School.
Waterside proposed serving the refinery and the propane terminal with trains. “If there was a large oil train incident, we would have to call in help from outside areas to respond to the current level of flammable materials traveling through our service area,” said Glen Hudson, a volunteer with the Cowlitz 2 fire department. “The port commission rejected a project that we are unprepared to respond to. Statistics from 2016 already reveal that we are facing a higher volume of emergency response calls—our resources are already being stretched too thin. If the fire department expanded to meet the risk that Waterside poses, taxpayers would bear the burden.”
The Port’s decision marks the latest in a string of defeats for fossil fuel projects on the Columbia River. In addition to Waterside, the Port of Longview previously rejected a propane export terminal by Haven Energy. The City of Portland rejected a propane terminal proposed by Pembina.
“Our region values clean water and healthy communities,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “Dirty fossil fuel projects fly in the face of these values. The Port of Longview heard loud and clear from its constituents: an oil refinery and propane terminal are dirty and dangerous.”
“This community presented a compelling argument against the Waterside oil refinery and propane terminal,” stated Kelso resident Linda Horst. “By voting ‘no’, our port commissioners demonstrated a sincere desire to work not only for the community, but with the community. I thank them for the resounding ‘no’ vote.”
Oil refinery opponents flagged the checkered history of Waterside Energy. In 2014, Waterside Energy’s backers abandoned their biodiesel facility in Odessa, Washington, firing all employees and leaving over $1.6 million in unpaid bills. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted an emergency cleanup at the site after discovering dangerous, leaking chemicals. Today’s vote ends two years of negotiations –largely behind closed doors – to build the first oil refinery on the Columbia.
About Columbia Riverkeeper
Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean. Representing over 8,000 members and supporters, Columbia Riverkeeper works to restore a Columbia River where people can safely eat the fish they catch, and where children can swim without fear of toxic exposure. The organization is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement, uniting more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations worldwide. For more information go to columbiariverkeeper.org.