Port Punts on Dangerous Crude Oil Terminal Decision, Governor Inslee Still Has Final Call

In a 2-1 vote, the Port of Vancouver Commission allowed its lease for the Tesoro Savage oil terminal to extend for an additional three months, despite growing pressure on the Port to pull the plug on the languishing, unpopular proposal. Tesoro Savage has proposed the largest oil-by-rail terminal in North America, capable of shipping 360,000 barrels of crude oil each day. Already, the Cities of Vancouver, Washougal, and Spokane, Columbia River Treaty tribes, ILWU Local 4, Vancouver’s Waterfront Development Project, the Frimage1uit Valley Neighborhood Association, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson have called on Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to recommend denial.

Vancouver’s Port Commission negotiated for the ability to terminate its lease for the Tesoro Savage oil terminal project, but it chose not to use this provision in its lease agreement. Commissioner Eric LaBrant supported termination of the lease, saying, “Right now I see zero permits and zero jobs. It’s time to move on.” EFSEC is expected to make a recommendation in coming months, after which Governor Inslee will make the final decision about the project.

“The fate of this project was likely sealed when an oil train derailed, spilled, and burned in Mosier in June, 2016,” said Dan Serres, Conservation Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “The Port has chosen to delay the inevitable failure of this proposal, and to leave for Washington Governor Inslee the obvious decision to deny this reckless proposal – one that enjoys opposition from the City of Vancouver, City of Spokane, tribal nations, and Washington’s Attorney General. Washington’s future is in clean energy, not crude oil.”

“We are eager to see the Port move forward with proposals that create good jobs at Terminal 5” said Jared Smith, President of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 4. “The oil terminal isn’t it, and oil trains would put our members at enormous risk. We look forward to Governor Inslee putting an end to this dead-end idea.”

“The City of Vancouver took a firm stand against this project, and the Port had an opportunity to move on to seeking projects that would actually benefit our community,” Don Steinke, member of the Sierra Club Vancouver Beyond Oil & Coal Task Force, stated. “We are disappointed that two Commissioners lacked the courage to do this. We are very confident that the Governor will protect our community and communities in the Gorge by denying this project.”

Far from Vancouver, communities along likely oil train routes have been vocal in opposing the Tesoro Savage oil terminal.

“The entire region will be watching closely as the Governor makes this decision,” said Ben Stuckart, president of the Spokane City Council. “Like Vancouver, the safety of Spokane’s downtown and the health of our air and drinking water are at risk with Tesoro Savage’s dangerous oil train terminal. I look forward to the day when Washington denies this project once and for all.”

Arlene Burns, Mayor of Mosier said “This project puts the entire Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area and all communities along the tracks at tremendous risk. We experienced firsthand an oil train derailment, fire and spill, which has left us with contaminated ground water still nine months later. Dangerous and dirty oil trains do not belong in the Columbia Gorge.”

The Port’s next opportunity to terminate the lease comes at the end of June. EFSEC is expected to hold at least one public hearing this spring about air pollution from the oil terminal and to finalize its environmental review soon thereafter. EFSEC plans to make its recommendation to Governor Inslee by the end of June, roughly one year after the oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon.

Governor Inslee’s final decision is expected in 2017.