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News / Clark County News

Army Corps to review oil terminal plan

Move applauded by environmental advocacy coalition

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter
Published: June 4, 2015, 12:00am

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct its own review of a proposed oil transfer terminal at the Port of Vancouver, the agency announced Thursday.

The terminal must receive a federal permit for in-water work on the Columbia River. Other upland work, such as constructing rail lines, storage tanks and buildings, does not require the authorization of the Army Corps.

The oil terminal was first proposed in 2013 by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies. The two companies’ joint venture in February 2014 applied for authorization from the Army Corps to build the export terminal at the Port of Vancouver. Thursday’s announcement means that work will require an individual permit, and won’t be covered under an existing Nationwide Permit, according to the Army Corps.

Environmental groups hailed the move as “the right decision.”

“The Corps’ decision to conduct a full review is consistent with the law, and follows common sense: An unprecedented oil-by-rail terminal deserves a public discussion on impacts to public safety and our environment,” Stand Up To Oil, a coalition of advocacy groups, said in a released statement.

The statement continued: “This terminal would endanger our health, safety and economy and deserves a thorough evaluation from all decision-makers.”

Tesoro and Savage want to build an rail-to-marine transfer terminal capable of handling 360,000 barrels of crude oil per day. If built, the facility would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the United States. Proponents of the project have touted its economic benefits to the community.

As part of its review, the Army Corps will seek public comment. A public notice will likely be issued later this month, according to the agency. The analysis will include the activities in the river requiring a permit, plus the environmental impact of those activities. The agency may expand its review beyond that work, but only to the extent allowed under the law, officials said.

The Army Corps review is separate from the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council review, which is ongoing. The panel is expected to release a sweeping draft environmental impact statement later this year, and will ultimately make a recommendation to Washington’s governor for a final decision. The outcome could be appealed to the Washington Supreme Court.

Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter