Debate over the economic merits of an oil terminal proposed in Vancouver resurfaced Tuesday, with a coalition of small business owners arguing the project’s 176 jobs will come at a loss of 2,880 jobs over 10 years.
Or, as the coalition known as Vancouver 101 put it, for every job generated by what would be the nation’s largest rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal at the Port of Vancouver, the city’s economy stands to lose 16 jobs.
The numbers aren’t based on a statistical survey or commissioned analysis. Instead, they reflect back-of-the-envelope projections of about a dozen members of the coalition of about 115 small businesses, according to Don Orange, a coalition member who owns Hoesly Eco Auto & Tire. The company has been in Vancouver since 1946.
“We think that we are the most qualified people to do this,” he said of the study, noting that small business owners regularly run numbers to obtain bank loans, make hiring decisions and to size up customer demand.
In an email to The Columbian, Jennifer Minx, a spokeswoman for Vancouver Energy — the partnership of Tesoro Corp., a petroleum refiner, and Savage Cos., a transportation company, which seek to build the oil terminal — questioned the soundness of Vancouver 101’s study. She also pointed to the positive economic impacts found by a study that was conducted for Vancouver Energy, including that the oil terminal “will deliver $2 billion in economic value to the local and regional economy through direct labor income and tax revenues, as well as income and profits created as a result of the terminal’s indirect and induced impacts.”
Members of Vancouver 101 held a teleconference Tuesday to highlight the group’s study and to express their concerns about the oil terminal.
Bryan Shull, owner of Trap Door Brewing, slated to open later this year, said in the group’s news release that “had there been a dangerous oil terminal when I was making my decisions, I would not have started building. I chose Vancouver as the place to make my business dream come true because it is one of the jewels of the Pacific Northwest, not an oil town.”
During the teleconference, Shull noted that he worked in the renewable-energy sector for many years. The oil terminal, he said, represents both a “doubling down on backward 19th-century infrastructure” and a “terrible idea” for business.
Ryan Palmer, owner of Torque Coffee Roasters, said it’s only a matter of time before an oil-bearing train spills crude or explodes in Vancouver. The jobs associated with the oil terminal “aren’t worth the death, not worth the risk,” he said.
Tesoro and Savage want to receive about 360,000 barrels of crude per day at the port. The oil would come from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. It would arrive by rail — as many as four full trains per day at full capacity. The crude would then be transferred to marine vessels and sent down the Columbia River en route to West Coast refineries.
In her email, Minx said Vancouver Energy questions “the validity of the report released by Vancouver 101, as the organization doesn’t provide a basis for the assumptions used in its ‘back of the envelope’ analysis.”
Minx said the study that was done for Vancouver Energy by Boston-based Analysis Group found the oil terminal “will support 320 full-time or equivalent jobs during construction plus 176 direct, on-site jobs and 440 direct, off-site jobs once the terminal is fully operational.”
She went on: “Over 1,000 jobs annually on average will be supported — many of which will be with Vancouver small businesses — as additional indirect and induced jobs are created by suppliers to the project and by subsequent rounds of spending in the region, including patronage of small businesses in Vancouver.”
Vancouver 101 sees it differently.
If the oil terminal is built, the coalition’s study estimates that job losses from existing businesses that would leave Vancouver and from businesses that would decide against moving to the city would total 2,880 over 10 years.
The study is conservative because it assumes the oil terminal will be safely operated, according to the group. And the study is based on the idea that the oil terminal will fundamentally change Vancouver’s image and quality of life and, as a result, impose negative impacts on downtown companies’ business models and customer demand.
“We feel this oil terminal will change the culture of our city,” Orange said.
Minx said Vancouver Energy doesn’t believe Vancouver 101 “represents the views of the community at large” because Portland-based polling firm DHM Research “found that 69 percent of Clark County respondents support the Vancouver Energy terminal, largely because of its potential economic benefits and its contribution to U.S. energy independence in an uncertain world.”
Minx said the oil terminal will be designed and operated with strict safety and environmental protections. “Trains safely carry crude oil through Vancouver today and will continue to do so regardless of whether the Vancouver Energy terminal is constructed,” she said.
The proposed oil terminal is now undegoing r an environmental impact examination by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council. That panel will make a recommendation to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who holds the final say on a permit.
Orange said Vancouver 101 expects its membership to grow. And the group will continue to trumpet its message, including to the evaluation council, he said. “We think it’s critically important.”