Rejecting oil terminal by train for Vancouver, Washington, state panel urges Governor Inslee


A Washington state energy board has recommended that Governor Jay Inslee reject a permit for a crude oil terminal by rail at the Port of Vancouver.

A state energy council, in a unanimous vote on Tuesday, recommended the government Jay Inslee rejects a permit for a new crude oil terminal by rail in Vancouver, Washington.

The action could condemn a project that has tried to bring more Bakken Shale crude from North Dakota and Montana to the West Coast refineries in a bid that according to supporters would reduce dependence on foreign oil.

The project has faced fierce resistance, in part due to concerns about train derailments and fires that would carry crude oil. The permit review that began in 2013 was the longest in the history of the Energy Facilities Assessment Board and attracted around 250,000 public comments.

Based on the vote, taken during a brief afternoon meeting, a written recommendation will be drafted and sent to Inslee, who will have 60 days to decide whether to accept or reject the board's recommendation.

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The Vancouver Energy terminal would service an average of four oil trains per day. That oil would be loaded onto ships for delivery to the refineries in Washington and California.

The terminal is one of a series of high profile fossil fuel projects proposed in the state of Washington in recent years, all of which have faced winds against environmentalists seeking to block these developments and accelerate a transition towards renewable energy.

"We are extremely disappointed, especially after a review of more than four years in a process that state law should take a year," said Jeff Hymas, spokesman for the Vancouver Energy project, in a written statement. The council "has set an impossible standard for new energy facilities … This decision sends a clear message against development that will have a chilling effect on business in the state of Washington."

Environmentalists expect Inslee to accept the council's recommendation and kill the permit.

"Our governor is an advocate for tackling climate change and protecting public safety, and we trust that he will do well," said Rebecca Ponzio, director of the Stand Up to Oil campaign, in a written statement.

The plant would be located on more than 47 acres in Vancouver Harbor along the Columbia River. It would directly employ 176 people and another 440 outside the site, in what the defenders claim would be an important economic boost for the region.

Even if Inslee decides to approve the permit, the project is also expected to have major problems at the port. of Vancouver, where the November elections resulted in opponents of the terminal with two of the three seats in the Harbor Commission. The commissioners are expected to vote early next year on whether to terminate the rental contract that the terminal would allow.

"I think if I changed my position, they would see me out of town," said Don Orange, who was elected to the commission by a wide margin earlier this month in a campaign against an opponent who raised more than $ 596,000. of terminal proponents "We are incredibly fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and we are going to face this place."

The terminal was proposed for the first time during a period of high oil prices and a lack of pipeline capacity to transport Bakken Shale crude to markets. Since then, oil prices have declined and new pipelines have been connected to service these fields.

Vancouver Energy officials say their project may still be profitable

"We still trust the economics of this project and believe there is still a need," said Hymas, the spokesman. "We have spoken of this as an opportunity to strengthen energy security, and could displace up to 30 percent of the foreign oil imported to the West Coast."

The prospect of 28 additional oil trains traveling through the western states each week helped galvanize opponents.

Derailments and explosions are among the biggest concerns, with a series of high-profile derailments and fires over the past decade that underscore the risks of oil trains. Among them, a July 2013 derailment of the Canadian city of Lac-Megantic that killed 47 people and an incident in June 2016 on the side of the Columbia River Canyon in Oregon that caused no injuries but caused a partial evacuation of the Mosier city after four cars derailed caught fire.

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