Riley & Flint: Protecting people, environment key in oil plan

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For Tesoro and Savage, partners in the proposed Vancouver crude oil terminal, safety and environmental stewardship are deeply ingrained in our culture, and we continuously work to keep our neighbors, employees and customers safe.

Last fall, the Port of Vancouver identified crude oil by rail as a good fit for its existing infrastructure. In November, the port issued a Request for Statements of Interest for the project. In response, Tesoro, which has operated a refined products terminal at the port since 1995, and longtime partner Savage formed a joint venture to fully leverage our shared experience and expertise in safely and responsibly moving, storing and handling crude oil to produce fuel for American consumers.

The project would provide North American crude oil to West Coast refineries, offering a U.S. alternative to foreign imports and bolstering U.S. energy independence. The terminal will receive and unload rail cars and load double-hulled U.S.-built, flagged and operated marine vessels to transport crude oil down the Columbia River toward West Coast refineries. The project could generate up to 250 construction jobs and up to 120 permanent full-time positions, primarily from the local community.

Tesoro and Savage are committed to engaging stakeholders. Our proposal to the port identified groups that may have an interest in the project and potential anticipated issues. When the project was announced, we met with government officials and community and civic organizations to introduce the project and our team. We intend to continue reaching out to community members and stakeholders.

The project will go through the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council permit process, which promotes real and significant transparency and provides many opportunities for public involvement, with public hearings and comment periods scheduled throughout the process.

The tragic rail accident in Quebec is a reminder of the importance of our commitment to safety and environmental stewardship. We intend to design, construct and operate a safe and environmentally responsible facility.

The facility will be engineered to ensure safe handling of crude oil, and Tesoro and Savage will employ proven processes and training. We will further commit to the facility's safe operations through prevention, preparedness and response programs. We will participate and invest in local spill-prevention programs, and we will work with regulatory agencies to update our spill-prevention plans.

Key to our safe handling plan is the use of state-of-the-art double-hulled marine vessels and rail cars designed specifically for crude oil.

No unattended trains

Tesoro and Savage will use local pilots with decades of experience navigating the Columbia River. Marine vessels with segregated cargo compartments will employ spill protection during cargo transfers.

Railroad companies have invested heavily in technologies that notify the railroad in advance of potential problems. Some of these technologies include wheel impact detectors, wheel journal detectors, and detector cars that X-ray the rail for metal defects. These and other technologies have significantly reduced derailments over the past 20 years. Our trains at the port will be driven by experienced regional conductors. The Tesoro and Savage team will not leave a train unattended on port property.

In the event of a rail incident, our trained and qualified response team would support the rail operator's response efforts. We have spill-response equipment in place at Tesoro facilities in the area, and we plan to stage additional state-of-the-art equipment to bolster emergency response capabilities. We will continue to work closely with the Vancouver Fire Department and BNSF Railway to develop a joint emergency response plan.

We believe that the Tesoro and Savage Crude Oil Terminal will directly benefit the people and the economy of Vancouver and Southwest Washington. We are confident that we can deliver a safe and efficient facility.

The coming months will afford many opportunities for residents to ask questions. We appreciate the chance to provide answers, explain the project and earn your trust and support.


Dan Riley, a longtime Washington resident, is currently based in San Antonio, Texas, and serves as Vice President, State and Local Government Affairs for Tesoro. Kelly Flint is based in Salt Lake City, UT and serves as Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Savage.