Local View: Oil terminal will be in new port commissioner’s hands

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Consider this riddle: What has a beginning but no end?

Answer: Washington state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council process.

Recently, at the request of Vancouver Energy, EFSEC once again delayed its decision regarding the massive proposed oil terminal in Vancouver. If approved and constructed, the terminal could draw up to five 120-car oil trains each day through the Columbia River Gorge into Vancouver — trains similar to the one that derailed, spilled and burned in Mosier, Ore., last year.

The delay virtually guarantees that the Port of Vancouver commissioners will have an opportunity to decide in 2018 whether the project should proceed. To be clear, the Port of Vancouver can and should terminate the Tesoro-Savage terminal proposal in Vancouver right now. However, given two sitting commissioners’ unwillingness to take this action, the decision will fall to a newly elected port commissioner in 2018.

As a city council member and a former city attorney for the city of Vancouver, we support the strong stand that the city of Vancouver, the Waterfront Development Group and many others have taken against the oil terminal.

More importantly, as current and former public officials for the city of Vancouver, we want every reader of The Columbian to understand that the upcoming port election offers a clear choice about the proposed terminal in Vancouver.

Pivotal decision

As The Columbian has reported, one candidate supports the terminal and the other opposes it. We want you to understand that the next port commissioner will not just have an opinion. That person will have an opportunity to decide the fate of the oil terminal.

Supporters of the oil terminal argue that this is Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision. While it is true that Inslee will make a decision based on a recommendation from the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, this does not absolve the port commission of its responsibility.

Regardless of the governor’s decision, legal appeals and a seemingly endless EFSEC process will likely and needlessly prolong the unpopular terminal proposal for years to come, thus preventing the port from moving on to new projects that would create jobs for Vancouver.

Meanwhile, the new port commission right here in Vancouver will have an opportunity to decide in 2018 whether to continue leasing public land for North America’s largest proposed oil-to-marine terminal. The port commission can choose to end the lease for a dead-end oil terminal proposal. It’s that simple.

The November election will shape the future of Vancouver for generations to come, and it could determine the future of the oil terminal once and for all. Please vote accordingly.


Bart Hansen is a member of the Vancouver City Council.
Ted Gathe is a former Vancouver city attorney.