Opponents dominate hearing on Vancouver oil terminal in Spokane

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SPOKANE — A proposal to ship North Dakota crude oil by train to Vancouver drew more opponents than supporters to a Wednesday night public hearing in Spokane, which could see four more oil trains a day if the project is approved.

Most of the 75 people at the hearing said they were worried about the risk of train derailments, spills or fires, as well as global climate change from using the oil.

Opponents also dominated a public hearing in Vancouver at the end of October.

Supporters say the terminal is needed because there’s no major oil pipeline on the route. The companies behind the project say it will meet regulations. They hope to begin construction by the end of next year.

The Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is reviewing the proposal by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. for the terminal at the Port of Vancouver to handle up to 360,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Oil arriving by train would be stored temporarily and then shipped to refineries on the West Coast.

The public can submit comments on the Vancouver project through Dec. 18 to the evaluation council. After an environmental impact statement is complete, the council will make a recommendation to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee for a decision on whether it should be built.

The crude-by-rail terminal would help U.S. refineries offset or replace declining Alaska North Slope production and more-expensive oil imports. Under current federal law, crude oil extracted in the United States generally cannot be exported.

Refineries in Washington and terminals in Anacortes, Tacoma and Clatskanie, Ore., already receive crude oil by trains. Another is proposed at the Port of Grays Harbor.