In Our View: EFSEC Makes Right Call

Decision on proposed oil terminal at port nothing less than victory for county

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Tuesday’s decision by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council was a victory for Vancouver, the Columbia River Gorge and residents who value this region’s strengths. As the council gave a unanimous thumbs-down to a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver, it provided the punctuation to years of outspoken public opposition while reinforcing a simple notion: This is the wrong plan at the wrong time in the wrong place.

“Based on the full record, including the adjudicative preceding and Final Environmental Impact Statement, which, considered together, reflect Vancouver Energy has not met its burden … to establish the Port of Vancouver is an acceptable location to site the proposed Vancouver Energy distribution terminal,” Greg Shafer, an EFSEC councilman and Clark County Public Works employee, said in making a motion that the council reject the project.

The decision does not mark the end of a plan by Andeavor (formerly Tesoro Corp.) and Savage Cos., working together as Vancouver Energy; it simply means the council will recommend to Gov. Jay Inslee that the proposal be rejected. Given Inslee’s stated desire to be remembered as “the green governor” for his attention to environmental concerns, it is unlikely he would go against the council’s recommendation. In addition, the recent election of Don Orange to the port’s board of commissioners likely will result in the board voting to terminate the lease.

Meanwhile, there is no telling what sort of legal battle might be launched by oil interests to keep the plan alive. The proposal to build a terminal and bring a daily average of 15 million gallons of crude by train to the Port of Vancouver has not been buried; but dirt is being shoveled atop the coffin.

That marks a victory for those who have opposed the effort to establish Vancouver as an oil town. It also marks a reinforcement of the area’s desire to maintain and enhance the region’s strongest attribute — its natural beauty. Building the largest rail-to-marine oil terminal in North America would run counter to the appropriate vision for Vancouver’s future, a vision that must look forward rather than embrace industries of the past.

Supporters of the terminal are correct in stating that our economy is — and will continue to be — dependent upon oil. But the oil scheduled to come through Vancouver would not stay here; it would be shipped off to refineries elsewhere in the United States or abroad. And the importance of oil does not mitigate Clark County’s moral duty to help develop and promote clean energy to help reduce global reliance upon fossil fuels.

The proposed terminal is, indeed, the wrong idea in the wrong place.

That is something that should have been recognized by previous port commissioners. From the moment the proposal came to light, public opposition has been strong, and any close examination has revealed that the plan is anathema to this region. Commissioner Jerry Oliver, in particular, has been a strong proponent of the terminal, ignoring public opinion and eschewing reasonable and thoughtful consideration of the terminal’s environmental and commercial impact.

Because of that stridency, a portion of the port has been sitting vacant for four years while waiting for approval of a plan that was doomed to fail. Andeavor and Savage have been unable “to establish the Port of Vancouver is an acceptable location” simply because it isn’t an acceptable location. Formal recognition of that fact is a victory for the people of Clark County.