[Vision2020] 1-29-18 "Washington Governor Inslee Rejects Major Oil-by-Rail Project"

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Sun Feb 4 23:23:00 PST 2018

Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett

Washington Governor Inslee Rejects Major Oil-by-Rail Project

Justin Mikulka <https://www.desmogblog.com/user/justin-mikulka> • Monday,
January 29, 2018

On January 29, Washington Governor Jay Inslee rejected a permit required
for Tesoro-Savage to build the Vancouver Energy oil-by-rail facility, the
largest such project in the nation, at the Port of Vancouver, along the
Washington-Oregon border. The governor explained the basis of his decision,
which followed a several year long process, in a letter
the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council:

“When weighing all of the factors considered against the need for and
potential benefits of the facility at this location, I believe the record
reflects substantial evidence that the project does not meet the broad
public interest standard necessary for the Council to recommend
site certification.”

Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of Tesoro and Savage, has not yet
commented on the decision but has 30 days to file an appeal. Local
environmental groups, however, were quick to applaud the news.

“This project was absurdly dangerous and destructive, and Governor Inslee
saw these risks clearly,” said Dan Serres, Conservation Director of
Columbia Riverkeeper. “The threat of an earthquake or accident creating an
oil spill in the Columbia River poses far too great a risk to the Columbia,
its salmon, and its people.”

Serres and the governor both outlined why many oil-by-rail projects have
been fiercely opposed by local communities: the projects offer huge risks
and very little reward for the communities where they are located. The
Vancouver Energy terminal would have resulted in oil train traffic hauling more
than 131 million barrels of oil
along the Columbia Gorge and transferred to ships bound for West
Coast refineries.

The governor's decision came a week after three rail employees involved in
the deadly
Quebec, oil-by-rail disaster
acquitted, a situation which makes the potential risks of moving explosive
oil through communities readily apparent.

In Washington they don’t need to look as far as Lac-Mégantic to see the
risks of moving oil-by-rail.

In 2016 a train carrying Bakken oil through the Columbia River Gorge derailed
and caught fire
in Mosier, Oregon. By all accounts Mosier was very lucky that day and
avoided a much larger disaster. The proposed Tesoro-Savage facility would
have meant many more oil trains moving through the Columbia River Gorge,
which straddles Washington and Oregon.
Listening to the Will of the People

One could argue that with this decision, Governor Inslee is simply doing
his job by representing the people he serves. While the final decision
about this project's future was the governor’s to make, in November 2017
the voters of Vancouver were given an opportunity to voice their opinion
about this project at the ballot box — and the vote wasn’t even close.

Last year two candidates — one for the oil train project and one against —
ran for the open seat on the Port of Vancouver board of commissioners,
which would be charged with decisions related to the proposed Tesoro-Savage
facility. Don Orange, who opposed the oil-by-rail project, won that
election with almost 65 percent of the vote

Orange was elected despite his opponent receiving over $600,000 in campaign
funding, with 90 percent of it coming from the companies behind the
oil-by-rail facility and its backers. That's a lot of money pouring into a
campaign for an elected position that pays less than $20,000 a year.

Earlier this month Commissioner Orange and the other two port
commissioners voted
to not renew the company's lease
if the project did not have all required permits and licenses by March 31.
*Big Victory Caps a String of Success for Oil-by-Rail Activists*

By itself, the rejection of the Port of Vancouver oil-by-rail facility
would represent a major victory for activists opposing oil and rail
projects, as it would have been the largest facility of its kind in the
nation. However, the outcome caps a string of wins for West Coast
communities fighting against new oil-by-rail facilities in their midst.

Last year a California court ruled that an oil refinery and rail project in
not proceed because its environmental review
was inadequate.

That was preceded by the Washington Supreme Court voting unanimously
to deny an oil-by-rail project in Grays Harbor because that project lacked
a comprehensive environmental review and did not consider the Ocean
Resources Management Act.

Also in 2017, a proposed Phillips 66 oil-by-rail project
in California was voted down by the San Luis Obispo County
planning commission.

In 2016 the city council in Benicia, California, voted unanimously to
reject Valero's proposed oil-by-rail project
The Benicia project also resulted in another victory for local communities
when the Surface Transportation Board ruled that local communities had the
right to weigh in on oil-by-rail projects proposed in their area.

The Benicia decision was a situation that Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor
acknowledged had national implications. “The community of Benicia, in the
crosshairs of history, made one of those decisions that will make a
difference for the country. They stood up and said the safety of our
communities matters,” he said.

That decision gave communities the right to say whether or not they wanted
to absorb a large part of the risks of oil-by-rail projects when it was oil
and rail companies reaping the rewards.
*The Fight Continues*

In June of this year I wrote about
how the oil industry had long-term plans to use rail to move oil to West
Coast refineries. At the time, I mentioned that Kevin Sheys, an industry
lawyer speaking to the 2016 Energy by Rail conference, made a presentation
that included a slide stating that that the biggest threat facing the
industry was “Local Regulation of Crude Oil/Ethanol Unit Train
Unloading Projects.”

Unhappy with local communities having some say in such matters, Sheys said,
“I think that in the next four years, there is an issue that the
administration will have to deal with … and the issue is local regulation
of crude oil and ethanol unit train unloading projects.”

As Governor Inslee and the state of Washington have shown, Sheys prediction
seems to be spot on.
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