Friday, December 4, 2020
Dec. 4, 2020

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Oil terminal environmental review due in November

By , Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter
Published:

The detailed environmental review of a proposed oil transfer terminal in Vancouver won’t be published until late November, according to a schedule submitted today to the state panel evaluating the project.

The project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be published on Nov. 24, according to Cardno, the consultant preparing the sweeping document. Cardno submitted a new timeline after being asked to do so last week by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.

The updated schedule marks another significant delay in a vetting process that began nearly two years ago when Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. applied to build the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal at the Port of Vancouver. Officials had recently said the environmental impact statement could be released as soon as this summer. Now, it appears the document will be published just two days before Thanksgiving.

During an EFSEC meeting last week, Cardno representative Kevin Freeman described the many issues that are being rolled into the environmental impact statement. That involves information requests from a variety of players, he said.

“This is a very complicated project,” Freeman told the council.

Tesoro and Savage, in partnership as Vancouver Energy, want to build an oil transfer terminal capable of handling about 360,000 barrels of crude per day. The terminal would receive oil by trains, then transfer it to marine vessels bound for other facilities. If built, it would be the largest such terminal in the United States.

Vancouver Energy is “disappointed” at the latest delay in the EFSEC process, Tesoro spokeswoman Jennifer Minx said in an email.

“We continue to be concerned that there is still no plan for a full project schedule through completion of the review process, as we believe that a firm and transparent timeline would be in the best interest of all parties involved,” Minx said. “That said, we remain committed to the proposed terminal and believe a thorough and robust evaluation will demonstrate we can design, construct and operate a safe, environmentally responsible facility that benefits the state and the region.”

Following its review, EFSEC will eventually make a recommendation to Washington’s governor, who holds final say over the project.

When the environmental impact statement is released, it will trigger a public comment period during which people can weigh in on the document and the project. State law requires that period to be at least 30 days. Some opponents of the project, including the city of Vancouver, have requested that the comment period be extended to as long as 120 days. In a letter earlier this month, EFSEC Manager Stephen Posner asked Vancouver Energy for its “concurrence” on a 60-day comment period.

The comment period should be “at least” 60 days, said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, which opposes the project. The timing isn’t crucial, he said, but many people are eager to make their case once the environmental impact statement is released.

“It’s a complex document,” VandenHeuvel said. “The longer the public has with it, the better information they’re going to have.”

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