Strictly Business: Oil terminal fight gets a new player

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter



Add yet another player to the multifaceted battle over whether Vancouver will make room for the Northwest’s largest oil transfer terminal: Heartland LLC, a Seattle-based real estate advisory and investment firm.

Public records obtained by The Columbian show Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies hired the company to help deal with concerns raised by Columbia Waterfront LLC about their proposed oil-by-rail project at the Port of Vancouver.

Columbia Waterfront LLC, which includes Tualatin, Ore.-based Gramor Development and four local investors, wants to construct a $1.3 billion commercial/residential redevelopment of Vancouver’s former industrial waterfront. The development group argues the oil terminal, which would receive an average of 360,000 barrels of crude per day, would hinder its effort to transform 32 acres of waterfront property. The oil terminal would be built less than 2 miles west of the waterfront site, which is next to port and BNSF Railway tracks.

Barry Cain, president of Gramor, outlined numerous concerns in a Dec. 18, 2013, letter to the Washington state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which is conducting an environmental-impact examination of the Tesoro-Savage proposal. As part of the evaluation council’s “scoping” process to decide the breadth of the environmental study, Cain also submitted analyses showing the oil terminal would undercut the waterfront project and hamper investment in the downtown area. And he asked the evaluation council to assess the oil terminal’s economic impacts on the waterfront project.

Tesoro and Savage assert the waterfront and oil terminal projects can co-exist. And they’re girding to grab the evaluation council’s attention, too. Enter Heartland LLC. In an April 11 email to Chad Eiken, Vancouver’s director of community and economic development, Ian Loveless, project manager for Heartland, asked to meet with city officials. “We are working on behalf of Tesoro-Savage to consider Mr. Cain’s comments about the impacts of the proposed Tesoro-Savage port terminal on the waterfront development project,” Loveless wrote, “as part of the (environmental impact statement) review process.”

Jon Wagner, senior planner for the city, said he and Teresa Brum, the city’s economic development division manager, met with three Heartland representatives at City Hall on April 21. They asked about such things as the waterfront project’s approved preliminary plat, master plan and permits, Wagner said. They also asked about the strength of the city’s commitment to the waterfront project. Very strong, the city replied. Wagner said he explained to Heartland the decades of work that led to the waterfront plan.

It’s not entirely clear what all of this means. But the evaluation council will eventually recommend to Gov. Jay Inslee whether to approve or deny the oil terminal. And a major influence on any decision is the environmental impact statement, a draft of which is expected to be released this year. In an email to The Columbian, Jeff Hymas, a spokesman for Savage, said Vancouver Energy (the name of the Tesoro-Savage joint venture) hired Heartland to assess “the current market value of the waterfront development, as part of the work necessary to address scoping comments in the preliminary draft (environmental impact statement).” Heartland’s work, Hymas said, will be submitted “in the near future” to the evaluation council.