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News / Opinion / Columns
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Local View: Vancouver Energy terminal will provide many benefits

By Mike Bridges
Published: July 23, 2017, 6:01am

To make real progress, there comes a time when talk and process have to give way to action.

The state of Washington has a great opportunity to simultaneously create family-wage jobs, reduce carbon, promote economic stability and improve America’s energy security by making it less dependent on foreign oil. The Vancouver Energy terminal at the Port of Vancouver will provide all these benefits and more.

I have attended 10 to 12 public hearings over four years of process to permit the proposed private infrastructure investment. By state statute, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) is supposed to complete its review of proposed major energy projects in one year. Maybe that’s unrealistic, but four years is much too long. In fact, the Legislature recently acted on, and Gov. Inslee signed into law, a bill calling on agencies to complete reviews within 24 months.

If electricians or other construction workers took three or four times as long as we’re supposed to complete a job, we would be fired or the word would get out and we would never be hired for another project. EFSEC needs to move on Vancouver Energy soon.

Vancouver Energy will create about 320 construction jobs and support 1,000 jobs annually through operations, support and induced activity. It will generate $2 billion in economic impact in the region, $22 million in state and local taxes during construction, $7.8 million in tax revenue annually, and over $40 million in fees to the port that can be used for further economic development.

In bringing Bakken crude oil to refineries in Washington and along the West Coast, Vancouver Energy will supply a product with up to 30 percent less carbon intensity than much of the oil those refineries currently use. This can produce the carbon-reduction equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off our roads each year. It can also displace up to 30 percent of the crude oil imported from foreign countries to the West Coast, making America stronger and more secure.

All this will be done while supplying petroleum that is essential to sustain the way people live, and essential for virtually every business and industry in the state, from aerospace, agriculture and high tech, to service and commercial businesses that depend on the transportation system.

Some opposed to Vancouver Energy say Vancouver and Southwest Washington “can do better.” But many members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48 and other construction trades in Southwest Washington can’t find work in their communities. Some are working in Oregon and having to pay Oregon taxes. They are hungry to work on this side of the river closer to where they live. Families and small businesses struggling to make ends meet need action to create jobs locally.

The Port of Vancouver USA solicited proposals for a crude oil transfer terminal because it has the deep-water port, rail connections and is the closest and most direct connection from the Midwest to West Coast refineries.

Opponents express concerns about public safety and environmental impacts, or deny the need for the project.

But EFSEC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on Vancouver Energy found no significant public safety or environmental impacts and no reasonable alternative to the project, and said current demand for petroleum will continue. It found that spills or other incidents at the facility or in the transport of crude oil by rail and ship are highly unlikely.

Regional Locals belonging to the IBEW and both the Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council and Washington Building and Construction Trades Council endorse Vancouver Energy. These organizations represent more than 100,000 construction trade union members across the state. They want to help ensure Vancouver Energy is built and operated safely while benefitting from the family-wage jobs it will create.

Our members are excited at the prospect of working closer to home with the Vancouver Energy terminal.

We need EFSEC to complete its work with a positive recommendation, and for Gov. Inslee to approve it.

Mike Bridges is a business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48 and is president of the Longview/Kelso Building Trades Council.