Nearly 250,000 comments have poured in on the oil terminal proposed for the Port of Vancouver. Now it’s time for the state to shovel through the mountain of public opinion about what would be the nation’s largest rail to marine transfer terminal.
The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council heard the tally at its Tuesday meeting in Olympia, and it was met with a quiet realization that the council and its staff have a lot of reading to do.
The council collected 60 days of written and in-person comments on the oil terminal’s draft environmental impact statement, which was issued in November.
Using the comments, which came from terminal opponents, supporters, governments and other parties, the council will finalize the environmental review for the rail-to-marine terminal before making a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee about the project.
Some comments submitted online contained attached letters that numbered into the tens of thousands, while some mailed comments contained flash drives with still more, said Sonia Bumpus, project manager for the council. “We have had some challenges in sorting these comments,” she said.
Eventually, the comments will be posted on the website and included in the final environmental impact statement.
While that process continues, a separate set of hearings will kick off in June. This adjudication will see Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. — who would operate the terminal jointly as Vancouver Energy — argue in a trial setting for their project. Nearly two dozen other agencies and groups will be able to make their own arguments and cross-examine witnesses over the five-week adjudication in Vancouver and Olympia.
The rail-to-marine terminal would handle 360,000 barrels of oil via an average of four 120-car trains per day. The oil, largely sourced from the Bakken fields of North Dakota, would be shipped to West Coast refineries.
Opponents of the terminal — who no doubt sent many of the comments — have long railed against the dangers involved with operating such a terminal. Supporters have touted the jobs and economic benefits the terminal would bring.