A key state official’s internal review last December of the proposed oil transfer terminal at the Port of Vancouver reveals deep concern from regulators about the project’s potential negative impacts on public safety, the local environment and global climate change. Washington state Assistant Attorney General Ann Essko also said in her confidential review that the joint venture’s preliminary draft environmental impact statement, submitted to support its application for state approval, “fails to demonstrate full compliance” with the state Environmental Policy Act.
The analysis by Essko, a central component of the state’s regulatory review of the highly controversial project, questioned whether Vancouver Energy, the partnership of applicants Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., had seriously considered alternatives, including transporting the oil by truck or choosing another location for the terminal. And it challenged statements by the companies that the project will reduce U.S. reliance on foreign energy sources. The repeated statement in the companies’ initial draft impact analysis “that Tesoro will ship crude to refineries on the West Coast appears to be misleading, as is its attempt to invoke the nation’s energy independence as a justification for the project,” wrote Essko in her 12-page review of the companies’ draft analysis that was sent to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.
The memo was linked to a document released to The Columbian in response to a public records request. It reveals a scathing legal examination of the draft impact analysis submitted by Tesoro, a petroleum refiner, and Savage, a transportation company. The companies want to receive by rail about 360,000 barrels of crude per day at the port. They say the oil would then be transferred to marine vessels and sent down the Columbia River en route to West Coast refineries.
The companies’ initial draft environmental impact study provided the basis for the evaluation council to develop its own inspection of the oil terminal’s impacts on air, land and water.
The council began its review more than two years ago, and the analysis of the oil terminal’s impacts has undergone revisions. The evaluation council is expected to release its draft environmental impact statement — an influential document in the state’s decision-making process — in late November for public review and comment. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will ultimately decide whether or not to approve the project.