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Feb. 23, 2020

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Port commissioners vote to end oil terminal lease in March

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
3 Photos
Lethene Parks, center, and Carrie Parks, right, applaud and cheer following the Port of Vancouver’s board of commissioners’ unanimous decision to put an end date on Vancouver Energy’s rolling lease for a proposed oil terminal, Tuesday January 9, 2018, at the Port of Vancouver. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian)
Lethene Parks, center, and Carrie Parks, right, applaud and cheer following the Port of Vancouver’s board of commissioners’ unanimous decision to put an end date on Vancouver Energy’s rolling lease for a proposed oil terminal, Tuesday January 9, 2018, at the Port of Vancouver. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Port of Vancouver’s board of commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to put an end date on Vancouver Energy’s rolling lease for a proposed oil terminal.

The commission directed port CEO Julianna Marler to provide notice to Vancouver Energy that they must receive the necessary licenses, permits and approvals required to operate by March 31 or the lease will be terminated.

Given the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council’s unanimous recommendation that Gov. Jay Inslee deny the project, Vancouver Energy will almost certainly not meet the lease requirements.

The move wasn’t on the meeting agenda but was highly anticipated, given that vocal terminal opponent and newly elected Commissioner Don Orange took office, alongside fellow terminal opponent Commissioner Eric LaBrant.

LaBrant made the motion to change the lease and Orange seconded, one of his first votes on his first day on the board.

17 Photos
Port of Vancouver oil terminal opponents celebrate Tuesday January 9, 2018, at the Port of Vancouver, following the Port of Vancouver’s board of commissioners’ unanimous decision to put an end date on Vancouver Energy’s rolling lease for a proposed oil terminal. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian)
Port commissioners vote to end oil terminal lease Photo Gallery

That was followed by a discussion and the 3-0 vote to change the lease.

“We’re obviously disappointed in the outcome,” Vancouver Energy General Manager Jared Larrabee said of the commission’s vote. “We certainly have to weigh the different options that are out there, but we’re doing that and looking forward to doing that.”

Prior to the vote, Commissioner Jerry Oliver, a stalwart supporter of the proposed terminal, received rousing applause after surprising many in the crowd with a short speech explaining why he’d vote with his colleagues.

Oliver said he was elected to the commission on a wave of public support 10 years ago after the port unsuccessfully tried to pass a $70 million tax levy without public input. He believed then, as he does now, that the port will be doing great things in the future.

“I believe when the oil terminal is done … the port will be doing better or great things for the benefit of this community,” he said. “I want to say that because — although I have some natural anxiety — I have appreciated the support of all of our friends in our building trades. But in the spirit of cooperation with my board … I believe in a spirit of conciliation of cooperation and the benefit of our port and this community. I will support the motion.”

“It’s gratifying to have our commission be united in its vision for the future of the port and community,” LaBrant said in a statement. “We still await the governor’s decision on the project, and we continue to be focused on supporting businesses, growing jobs and providing benefit to our community.”

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, the lease automatically renewed every three months while Vancouver Energy’s proposed oil terminal worked it way through the EFSEC evaluation.

The plan to build the largest rail-to-marine oil terminal in the United States suffered a major blow in November when EFSEC unanimously recommended the denial of the Vancouver Energy application for site certification to build a crude-by-rail oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

EFSEC forwarded its recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee in December.

At that point, Vancouver Energy and any other groups involved with the evaluation had 20 days to file a request for EFSEC to reconsider the proposal.

That deadline passed Monday without anyone filing a request for reconsideration.

Inslee is expected to issue his decision on the project by mid-February.

Following the port commission’s vote, Vancouver Energy released a statement saying the terminal is still a worthy endeavor.

“The value of the Vancouver Energy project continues to exist for this community, for workers in Clark County and throughout Washington, and for our nation’s energy security. We will evaluate our path forward and await Governor Inslee’s decision. We hope Governor Inslee recognizes the far-reaching negative impacts a denial of this project would have for industries across Washington and the message it would send to companies looking to do business in the state.”

Vancouver Energy has proposed to build a $210 million terminal at the Port of Vancouver. It would be capable of transferring an average of 360,000 barrels of oil per day from crude oil unit trains into marine vessels in the Columbia River bound for refineries along the West Coast.

The crude-by-rail terminal was the first of its kind to be considered by EFSEC since its creation in 1970. The body was created to be a one-stop licensing body for large energy projects being considered around Washington. Under state law, a project’s evaluation is supposed to be completed within a year, but Vancouver Energy’s took more than four.

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