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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Columns

Local View: Fruit Valley residents oppose oil plan

The Columbian
Published: April 12, 2014, 5:00pm

Vancouver’s largest neighborhood, Fruit Valley, is a longtime partner with rail, industry, and the Port of Vancouver. The businesses here contribute thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to Clark County’s economy.

Our citizens and business partners value family, hard work, community, and coming together to make good projects happen. For the first time in many years, we face a project that endangers our community and economy, by a company that refuses to make changes to improve safety.

Fruit Valley neighbors live with industry on our doorstep and sometimes in our backyards by asking for details. We examine impact on the community, and insist on good-neighbor adjustments for safer projects. Many of our business partners make extra investments to reduce noise and emissions. Time after time, we’ve partnered with the Port of Vancouver to encourage quality jobs that don’t endanger our community. We believe businesses and families can do more than simply coexist — we can prosper together.

Last November, the Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association voted to investigate and address the impact of the proposed Tesoro-Savage oil terminal. We asked Tesoro about the type of oil, safety procedures, and plans to keep toxic pollutants out of our school, parks, homes, and businesses.

Getting honest answers has been a struggle.

Tesoro tells our community about “light sweet” American crude, while telling investors they’ll handle nonpipeline oil from Canada. The project design reflects the intent to handle Canadian oil, but Fruit Valley can’t talk to them about working with it safely because they deny it will be handled here.

Each year, according to their application to the state of Washington, Tesoro will dump 230,000 pounds of benzene, hexane, carbon monoxide, and other toxic air pollutants on those who live and work here.

Unfortunately, Fruit Valley can’t ask Tesoro to address the dumping of chemicals because Tesoro is denying their own numbers. When they present the project in person, they brag about the legally defined “Best Available Control Technology” for emissions, but their application talks about even better controls that won’t be used here.

Last month, an explosion at Tesoro’s California refinery sent two workers to the hospital. Tesoro barred safety inspectors from the site, but they’re denying that as well. Tesoro claims inspectors were allowed in, but those same inspectors wrote a letter asking why they were kept out. We didn’t realize keeping safety inspectors out was even possible.

These contradictions are confusing — like a kid covered in chocolate denying he touched the cookie jar.

Clark County companies and jobs rely on the free flow of power and freight along the Columbia River. The ports of New Orleans, Galveston, and Houston were each closed for business last month by crude oil spills. This project’s size makes a spill along the Columbia River a statistical near-certainty within the next seven years. Can our economy and the Port of Vancouver withstand a lengthy shutdown?

We applaud the leadership of Vancouver’s City Council in standing against Tesoro to protect the job creators that already call Fruit Valley home. Hundreds of hard-working families, thousands of quality jobs, and dozens of businesses thrive in Fruit Valley. In a hundred years, we’ll still be partnering with business to bring good jobs to Clark County.

The Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association unanimously opposes the Tesoro-Savage oil project.

Eric LaBrant chairs the Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association.