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News / Business / Clark County Business

Evaluation council sticks with oil terminal timeline

Public comment period on environmental impact draft will be Nov. 24 to Jan. 8

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter
Published: October 20, 2015, 7:00pm

The state panel reviewing a proposed oil terminal in Vancouver is set to release the project’s draft environmental impact statement late next month, despite a renewed call to push the date back.

The document is scheduled to be released Nov. 24, two days before Thanksgiving. Critics have noted that release date would kick off a 45-day public comment period that ends Jan. 8, 2016 — coinciding with the holidays, when people are less likely to be engaged in civic processes and able to weigh in.

Jim Luce, the former chair of that state panel, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, told the group Tuesday that it should wait until after the holidays to release the document and trigger the window when the public can weigh in. His comments echoed a letter he sent to EFSEC earlier this week.

“That is inconsistent with the public interest,” Luce said of the proposed schedule. “We all have competing demands during this period.”

Luce, a Vancouver resident who opposes the terminal, had suggested releasing the project’s environmental impact statement on Jan. 2.

“This is a project unprecedented in EFSEC’s history, and it is a long EIS, I would imagine,” Luce said. “It is certainly a complex and highly technical document.”

The council did not act on Luce’s request Tuesday.

Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., doing business together as Vancouver Energy, want to build an oil transfer terminal capable of handling an average of 360,000 barrels of crude per day at the Port of Vancouver. The terminal would be the largest oil-by-rail facility in the United States.

The companies filed their application to EFSEC for the oil terminal in August 2013. EFSEC’s review has been extended repeatedly since then, including another vote Tuesday that pushed the completion date back to May 1.

The council eventually will make a recommendation to Washington’s governor, who holds final say over the project.

Vancouver Energy has expressed frustration with the length of the review process. But Luce said Vancouver Energy itself bears some responsibility for the delays. He cited a July letter in which EFSEC Manager Stephen Posner told the companies that their preliminary environmental impact statement was “not comprehensive” and did not meet “even the basic requirements for fully describing and analyzing project impacts.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Vancouver Energy attorney Jay Derr said he felt “a little ambushed” by Luce’s request. The publication date for the draft environmental impact statement has been known for months, Derr said. EFSEC could have avoided the conflict with the holidays by publishing the document sooner, he said, but chose not to do so.

The draft environmental impact statement will provide the most detailed look yet at a project that has drawn controversy in Clark County and beyond. Several key steps in the review process remain even after the document is released. The state also will hold adjudicative hearings and publish a final environmental impact statement before the project goes to the governor for a decision.

Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter