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Photo: Cacophony

Vancouver Energy Pushes for Oil Terminal on the Columbia River; Wash. Gov. Inslee is Unlikely to Approve the Deal

Tesoro Corporation and Savage Companies, operating as Vancouver Energy, are pushing to build a $210 million oil-by-rail terminal along the banks of the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington. Environmental advocates argue that the proposed project could jeopardize the river ecosystem, which is home to a wide array of fragile wildlife and runs through First Nations treaty-protected fishing territory.

The proposed terminal would be the largest U.S. facility of its kind. It would handle roughly 360,000 barrels of crude daily and would provide an outlet for rail transported North Dakota oil to be shipped from the Port of Vancouver down the west coast.

After heeding opinions from advocates and oppositional forces that will express their arguments over a five-week public comment period (which began with a hearing on Monday), the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) will assess the project.

The Interstate Bridge seen from Vancouver, Washington, where Interstate 5 crosses the Columbia River. (Photo Credit: Cacophony / WikiMedia Commons)

The Interstate Bridge seen from Vancouver, Washington, where Interstate 5 crosses the Columbia River. (Photo Credit: Cacophony / WikiMedia Commons)

The Council will then submit a recommendation to Washington State Governor, Jay Inslee, who will make the final decision.

Vancouver’s city attorneys are among those opposing the project. “Tesoro’s proposal constitutes a clear and present threat to human life and health…[and] risk of significant environmental impacts and harm,” said the lawyers. The EFSEC “simply has no ability to ensure the safety of Vancouver’s citizens while the equivalent of 1,667 tanker trucks of volatile crude oil per day move into and out of the heart of the fourth largest city in Washington.”

The energy conglomerate argues that it can safely develop the terminal. “We designed the oil terminal to ensure the safe handling of crude oil. We are committed to terminal safety through prevention, preparedness and effective response programs…our commitment to environmental stewardship and economic responsibility is a promise that extends into the communities where we work and live,” reads Vancouver Energy’s website.

The corporation also argues that the proposed project will increase regional energy independence, support over 1,000 jobs annually and bring an estimated “$2 billion in economic value” to the area.

On March 5, 2015, a BNSF Railway train derailed and two of its cars burst into flames in Galena, Illinois. (Photo via Twitter)

On March 5, 2015, a BNSF Railway train derailed and two of its cars burst into flames in Galena, Illinois. (Photo via Twitter)

On June 3, a Union Pacific oil transport train spilled 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the Columbia River near Mosier, Oregon. Oregon State Governor Kate Brown and Governor Inslee requested the corporation stop operating until they heighten safety precautions; however, the crude transporter declined to abide.

“A moratorium should be placed on any oil trains in Washington using track that is not inspected to…rigorous standards,” said Washington’s Governor. “I will continue pressing federal regulators and the railroads for swift action.”

Given Inslee’s stated concerns with oil-rail transport, there is hope that the terminal won’t be built. Environmental opposition to oil-by-rail has nicknamed oil trains “bomb trains” due to the explosive consequences of several highly-publicized collisions in recent years.

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