Analysis: Oil terminal could have $2 billion impact

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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Updated: August 22, 2014, 12:15 PM

 
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Analysis Group report on Vancouver oil terminal

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A proposed oil transfer terminal at the Port of Vancouver could generate an estimated $2 billion in “economic value” to the region, and 176 permanent on-site jobs once the facility is fully operational, according to a new analysis released Friday.

The report by Analysis Group, a Boston-based firm, measured direct, indirect and “induced” impacts from the proposed terminal, which would handle an average of 360,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Of the $2 billion in overall impact, most of that — about $1.6 billion — would come from labor income during an assumed 15-year life of the facility, according to the report. In addition to jobs at the terminal, the analysis discussed hundreds of off-site jobs that would be supported by the operation and its suppliers. The facility would also generate $7.8 million in annual tax revenue, according to the report.

The report was commissioned and paid for by Vancouver Energy. That’s the joint venture by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies aiming to build the proposed terminal.

The job and revenue numbers in the report released Friday are significantly higher what than Tesoro and Savage have said for months about their proposal, which has drawn significant criticism. The companies had previously said the terminal would generate 120 permanent jobs and $5.2 million in annual tax revenue, for example. And the new analysis assumed a higher construction cost: $210 million, compared with $150 million to $190 million in previous estimates.

The difference doesn’t reflect changes to the planned facility, said project general manager Jared Larrabee. Rather, the new numbers are the result of a more detailed level of analysis the companies didn’t have before, he said. Information from Analysis Group’s report will be included in a draft environmental impact statement now being developed for the project, Larrabee said.

The figures give new fodder to backers of the controversial project who tout its economic benefits. But it’s unlikely to change the minds of opponents who argue the terminal would be a disaster for the region.

“It’s still a risky and dangerous project,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “Oil trains still explode. Oil spills would still threaten the Columbia.”

VandenHeuvel noted many business voices in Clark County have either come out against the Tesoro-Savage terminal or stayed on the sidelines. Friday’s analysis still doesn’t address the risks that would come with it, he said.

“It’s too little, too late,” VandenHeuvel said.

The proposed Vancouver terminal would handle crude from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, now producing more than 1 million barrels of crude per day. Oil would be brought in by rail, then transferred to barges en route to West Coast refineries.

About three loaded oil trains already roll through Clark County and Vancouver per day on average. The Tesoro-Savage terminal could more than double that, handling up to four additional trains daily.

The proposal has drawn strong opposition from many residents citing concerns about the safety of transporting oil by rail and environmental impacts, among other worries.

The project has also been criticized by the developer charged with remaking Vancouver’s former industrial waterfront into a $1.3 billion mixed-use site. Barry Cain, president of Gramor Development, has said the oil terminal is incompatible with that vision.

In a letter last year to the state panel reviewing the oil terminal, Cain argued the waterfront project will lead to far greater economic development than the oil terminal. Cain also said the Tesoro-Savage terminal would undercut his proposal and development of Vancouver’s downtown. As part of his letter, he cited two analyses by Portland-based consultant Johnson Economics.

Friday’s report from Analysis Group assumes the terminal would begin construction in 2015 and be fully operational by 2017, continuing until 2030. But the actual duration of the operation could vary, said Bruce Strombom, managing principal for Analysis Group.

“The actual life could be longer than 15 years, or longer than 20, for that matter,” Strombom said during a presentation at the Hilton Vancouver Washington on Friday. “It could be shorter as well.”

Assuming construction in 2015 might be optimistic. The facility is currently under review by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, a process expected to last well into next year. Even if Gov. Jay Inslee makes a decision on the project next year, it could be appealed and wind up before the state Supreme Court.

Poll finds support

Vancouver Energy on Friday separately released results of a poll showing strong support for the oil terminal in Clark County.

In a survey of likely voters in Clark County, Portland-based firm DHM Research found that 69 percent of respondents favored the terminal, compared with 26 percent against — a difference far beyond the poll’s 4.8 percent margin of error. Statewide, respondents favored the Vancouver terminal by a margin of 64 percent to 29 percent, according to the poll.

The results were detailed in a memo from DHM’s Tim Hibbits to Vancouver Energy this month. DHM polled 500 people in a statewide sample, and 400 people in Clark County in early June, according to the memo.

The companies declined to release additional information about the survey, including the wording of the questions asked.