The state attorney tasked with defending the environment took aim at the Port of Vancouver’s proposed rail-to-marine oil terminal in comments submitted Friday by asserting that the risks of train derailments are being underplayed.
The counsel for the environment, a member of the Attorney General’s Office who represents the public’s interest in the environment while the state reviews proposed energy facilities, said the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Vancouver Energy oil terminal understates the risk of oil train derailments and fails to consider the ability of first responders to deal with an accident.
“The (environmental review) underestimates and under-reports the risk of a crude oil-bearing train derailing along the route to or from the Vancouver facility,” wrote Matthew Kernut, counsel for the environment. He added the environmental review “does not address with enough specificity what training and equipment is necessary for first responders throughout Washington to adequately respond to an oil spill or fire as a result of train or vessel accidents.”
The fact that a state lawyer is taking issue with a state environmental review is one of the many complexities in the drawn-out analysis conducted by the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council. The governor will ultimately get to decide the fate of the project, although his decision can be appealed to the state Supreme Court. The governor can’t comment himself on the project while the review is ongoing, and the Attorney General’s Office likewise said it was not taking sides on the issue.
Kernut’s statement came right at the deadline for public comments on the environmental review, which closed Friday after 60 days. His analysis supported concerns raised by hundreds of oil train opponents since the project was proposed in 2013.