State panel reaffirms zoning permits for proposed oil terminal

State council points out that oil-by-rail proposal could meet other blocks

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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The state panel reviewing a proposed oil transfer terminal in Vancouver issued an order Friday confirming that the site where it would be built is appropriately zoned for such a purpose.

The order issued by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council affirms its 8-1 declaration on July 15 that the proposal is consistent with local land-use and zoning rules.

During the July 15 hearing, Bill Lynch, chairman of the evaluation council, said that affirmation of a narrow land-use consistency "does not, by any means, translate into an approval of the proposed project."

In a news release Friday, the evaluation council said the order it issued "is not an endorsement or approval of the proposed terminal."

Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. want to build an oil-by-rail operation receiving an average of 360,000 barrels of crude per day at the Port of Vancouver. The crude would be stored in six above-ground tanks. Each tank would have a capacity of 380,000 barrels for a total storage capacity of up to 2.28 million barrels. The oil would be loaded onto ships bound for U.S. refineries.

Backers say the project would produce jobs and increase port revenues.

Opponents cite multiple concerns, including oil spills and explosive train derailments.

The evaluation council said Friday it expects to issue a draft environmental impact statement on the Tesoro-Savage proposal this year. Eventually, the evaluation council will make a recommendation to the Washington governor, who has the final say over the project.