Vote to extend oil terminal lease through 2021 fails

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer

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Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver is tired of rehashing the port’s Vancouver Energy lease when it comes up for automatic renewal every three months.

The rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal is working its way through the state’s evaluation process for large energy projects and Oliver wants to allow that process to run its course. That’s why he proposed during Tuesday’s port meeting that the commissioners extend the lease until Jan. 1, 2021.

His motion failed 2-1 as  Commissioners Brian Wolfe and Eric LaBrant voted against it but did not comment on the vote.

“I’m sick and tired of every 90 days having to sit there and listen to the same lament from the proponents and opponents,” he said after the meeting. “Let’s stop talking about it. At this point there’s nothing we can do to influence (Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council) and the governor, other than writing them letters.”

The $210 million oil terminal is currently being reviewed by the evaluation council. When they are finished they will give Gov. Jay Inslee a recommendation that it either should or shouldn’t be built. He will have 60 days to make a decision.

Meanwhile, the port’s lease with Vancouver Energy automatically renews every three months, unless either party moves to end it. The most recent three-month period ends Sept. 30. Following its renewal, it’ll end again Dec. 31.

Right around the time of each renewal, project opponents and proponents attend port meetings and advocate their respective positions.

“First meeting in December, we’ll have this same conversation over again,” Oliver said.

The terminal’s fate is a major issue in the upcoming November election between District 1 candidates Kris Greene, who supports the project, and Don Orange, who wants to end the lease immediately.

Although Oliver has endorsed Greene, he said the extension he proposed, which would be roughly three years and three months, had nothing to do with the upcoming election. Rather, he said he wanted to give the project space to go through the state’s process.

“We need to give the process a chance to run,” he said.

Project opponents didn’t see it the same way.

“The people on our side were shocked,” said Orange.

Dan Serres, conservation director of Columbia Riverkeeper, didn’t attend the meeting, but watched it online after he was notified of Oliver’s motion by someone who was there.

“The port deciding not to terminate the lease at this time, that’s one thing. This commission deciding to lock the port into a lease for three more years, that’s a very significant shift. …We applaud the other two commissioners for not going along with it.”