The likely Congress repeal of restrictions on U.S. oil exports is drawing criticism from environmental groups opposed to new oil transfer terminals in Oregon and Washington, including what would be the nation’s largest such terminal at the Port of Vancouver.
But Vancouver Energy, the Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. joint venture that wants to build the Vancouver terminal, said that even if the ban is lifted it will remain focused on its long-standing goal of serving U.S. West Coast refineries.
The Seattle-based Sightline Institute said in a Wednesday statement that lifting the ban could create more demand for oil that would need to move through the Northwest to reach its international destinations. The environmental group said current draft environmental impact statements for oil-by-rail projects at Anacortes, Grays Harbor, and Vancouver “should be re-done to assess the potential for massive increase in large-scale oil transport that the lifting of the export ban could represent for the region.”
Eric de Place, the Sightline Institute’s policy director, said in an interview that an oil transportation bill passed by the Washington Legislature was based on modeling of rail traffic volumes that did not take into account the possibility of lifting the export ban. If foreign demand for U.S. oil increases, he said, “it’s very possible that the Northwest ends up in the crosshairs of the industry’s ambitions.”
A coalition up of Northwest environmental organizations called Stand Up To Oil called a lift of the export ban is a “huge giveaway” to the oil industry.
“Lifting this ban means more explosive oil trains and tankers that can spill going through our region. It is a complete change in the level of threat and risk we face,” the coalition said in a statement. It called on Washington and Oregon to deny all currently proposed oil terminals.
In a statement, Vancouver Energy said it intends to stick to its “business case and intended purpose” of building a terminal to supply refineries in Washington and California.
It cited from its website: “While Vancouver Energy’s customers will own the crude oil and arrange for its transportation to and from the facility, we currently do not anticipate that crude oil handled at the facility will be exported.”
On its website, Tesoro says it favors easing restrictions on oil exports. “Tesoro supports free trade and free markets,” the website says. “As such, Tesoro supports legislation to relax the current restrictions on the export of American petroleum.”
Columbia Riverkeeper issued a statement that it anticipates that the Vancouver terminal would be used for exports with the export ban lifted.
“Tesoro has worked behind the scenes to lift the ban on oil export,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, the organization’s executive director. “Now Tesoro could export a massive volume of oil to Asia through Vancouver, threatening our communities with dangerous oil trains.”
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, supported lifting the oil export ban in a vote earlier this year. The congresswoman believes that increasing the supply of U.S. oil will improve global security by allowing U.S. allies to buy oil from U.S. sources instead of from unstable and aggressive nations, said Amy Pennington, Herrera Beutler’s communications director.