Hearings on oil terminal to begin in June

They will run through July, give backers, foes chance to make cases

By Brooks Johnson, Columbian Business Reporter



The oil terminal proposed for the Port of Vancouver is going on trial.

Sort of.

As part of the ongoing state review of the rail-to-marine terminal now before the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, an administrative law judge on Wednesday set hearings on the project to be held this summer.

These adjudication hearings will allow different groups involved in the terminal to make their case for or against its construction in front of the evaluation council, which will eventually make a recommendation on the project to the governor. The governor, in turn, gets to give an up-or-down decision on the terminal.

The hearings will start Monday, June 27. They will be held Mondays through Thursdays through July 29. All that time appears to be needed, as the nearly two dozen groups or individuals that will be presenting their cases have brought up a total of 107 issues and listed 117 potential witnesses and 383 potential exhibits.

That list could narrow as it’s finalized in the next few months, Administrative Law Judge Cassandra Noble wrote in her order.

The hearings are part of the same review but separate from the Environmental Impact Statement that is being finalized. Thousands of comments poured in on the environmental review, a big milestone for the project that was released in November.

The terminal, proposed as a joint venture between Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. called Vancouver Energy, would handle an average of 360,000 barrels of oil per day arriving by rail to be loaded onto ships bound for West Coast ports. It was first proposed publicly in 2013.

Foes have maintained the terminal would be unsafe and environmentally irresponsible, while backers say it would provide hundreds of good-paying jobs and contribute to energy independence.

Those arguments will no doubt resurface during adjudication. In Noble’s order, she lists procedural, environmental, tribal, location-specific, safety and economic-impact issues as those that will be presented during the hearings.

When the final Environmental Impact Statement is released and adjudication finished, the state evaluation council will issue a final or preliminary order on the project. The governor will then have 60 days to approve or deny the project — or send it back to the council for further review. His decision can be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The adjudication hearings, which will begin daily at 9 a.m. June 27, will be held in Vancouver the first and final weeks and in Olympia otherwise. They will be open to the public and available electronically.