Vancouver's draft resolution urges rejection of oil terminal

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: May 16, 2014, 5:51 PM

 
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Draft Anti-Oil Terminal Resolution

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A resolution under consideration by the Vancouver City Council urges decision-makers to reject a proposal to build the Northwest's largest oil-handling facility at the Port of Vancouver.

The draft resolution will be discussed by the council in a workshop, 4:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 415 W. Sixth St.

While the workshop doesn't include time for public comment, there will be a public hearing on the resolution, 7 p.m. June 2.

The council will vote on the resolution June 16, said City Manager Eric Holmes.

Drafted by Councilors Jack Burkman, Larry Smith and Bart Hansen, the resolution expresses "deep concern" about the "threat to life, safety and the environment due to accidents, potential spills and explosions posed by the oil terminal proposed to be located adjacent to downtown Vancouver."

The resolution calls on the Port of Vancouver to terminate its lease with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies, urges the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to recommend against siting the terminal and, as a last resort, urges Gov. Jay Inslee to not approve a site certification agreement.

The resolution also calls on Congress, the state Legislature and regulators "to adopt laws and regulations to increase the safety of transportation of crude oil."

A majority of the seven-member city council has expressed opposition to the oil terminal, and a resolution would formalize that opposition. The city council doesn't have authority to change the lease with Tesoro-Savage, as that was signed with Port of Vancouver officials.

In December, the city sent a letter to EFSEC outlining more than 100 areas of concern it wants the agency to include in its environmental impact review.

The city's concerns reflect many of those raised by opponents, including potential oil spills, fiery train derailments, train-traffic impacts on neighborhoods, detrimental impacts to the waterfront redevelopment plan and greenhouse gas emissions. But the city struck a neutral stance in its letter, saying it encourages the agency to "require a full and comprehensive analysis" of the project's impacts.

The proposed resolution describes the reasons behind the city's objections, including "the rail lines that will carry this volatile crude oil run through and by the City of Vancouver neighborhoods, parks, the I-5 corridor, commercial and industrial areas, the waterfront, the Columbia River, creeks and other natural areas."

The resolution cites recent accidents across the country and in Canada. It also says the city has invested $45 million in transportation improvements for its waterfront development project, and the BNSF railroad tracks border the development site.

Katie Odem, a spokeswoman for the port, said Friday that port officials were unavailable to respond to the council's proposed resolution.

During a May 5 workshop, Todd Coleman, the executive director of the Port of Vancouver, told councilors the Tesoro-Savage project will be a tremendous boon to the port and the community. He said he "absolutely" believes a thriving port can coexist with the city's vision for a pedestrian-friendly waterfront. Jared Larrabee, general manager in Vancouver for the proposed oil terminal for Savage Companies, told the council that safety was a top priority.

"This is an important project for Vancouver and for the country," Larrabee said during the May 5 meeting. He said recently reported cost increases for the project were attributed to design changes to improve safety, particularly in case of an earthquake. Tesoro Corp.'s chief executive officer told investors May 1 that building an oil transfer terminal in Vancouver could cost as much as $190 million, 72 percent higher than originally estimated.

In addition to voting on the resolution June 16, the council plans to vote to intervene in the EFSEC process.

As an intervenor, the city would be able to make arguments directly to EFSEC, introduce evidence, cross-examine witnesses and appeal the decision.