The Port of Vancouver will head into 2015 anticipating higher operating revenue from a new initiative: a lease deal to move agricultural products from North Dakota to Vancouver on rail cars that would otherwise run empty. Meanwhile, the port will take no increase in its property tax as part of its budget for next year.
But before port commissioners Nancy Baker, Jerry Oliver and Brian Wolfe approved those and other budget matters Tuesday, they came under fire for leaving the public out of discussions about an oil terminal proposed by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies.
“It really is disgusting,” said Don Orange, owner of Hoesly Eco Automotive in Vancouver. He was joined by other opponents of the oil terminal who spoke during the open forum portion of Tuesday’s public meeting. Among the critics was former Vancouver mayor Royce Pollard. Neither commissioners nor port staff responded to the criticism.
The barbs were based on a story published by The Columbian earlier this month. . The story revealed that the port apparently violated the state’s open public meetings law when commissioners held a private meeting on April 9, 2013. The stated purpose of that closed-door meeting: to discuss a minimum price for land the port would sell or lease for the oil terminal, a legally acceptable reason for a closed session. In reality, commissioners received a pitch from Tesoro and Savage executives about Tesoro’s “high-performing culture” and “safety and reliability,” Savage’s focus on “giving back to the community,” and a wide range of other topics that filled a 51-page slide presentation.
The meeting occurred about two weeks before Tesoro, a petroleum refiner, and Savage, a transportation company, publicly announced their proposed joint venture to develop the Northwest’s largest oil transfer terminal at the port.