The proposal to build the largest oil terminal in the Pacific Northwest in Vancouver stretches back to January, when Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies presented the Port of Vancouver with a highly lucrative deal and a plan to win political support and deflect critics.
Public records obtained by The Columbian show that the companies spelled out their approach to the project, designed to handle as much as 380,000 barrels of crude per day, in a Jan. 23 “statement of interest” document: “We will develop (with involvement from Port management) a comprehensive community outreach and government relations plan that would be implemented prior to, and in anticipation of, environmental and land use permitting and the (State Environmental Policy Act)process,” the companies wrote in the 42-page letter to Mike Schiller, the port’s general manager of operations.
“Implementation of this plan will occur prior to any public notice or the filing of permit applications in order to encourage early collaborative stakeholder communication, garner support for the Project, and reduce the risk of potential opposition,” it read.
The collaborative strategy between the publicly owned port and the two corporations reveals the high stakes for both sides in seizing opportunities created by mid-America’s oil boom. Emails and other records generated by the port and Tesoro and Savage suggest the parties hoped to carefully manage what would be the Northwest’s largest oil-handling plan in a way that would minimize controversy and address potential public concerns early on.
On July 6, the process got a horrible jolt.
That’s when a fiery oil train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, vaporized a large swath of the downtown, killed 50 people, forced the evacuation of 2,000 and prompted investigations.