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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.

In Our View: Inslee Got It Right

Rejection of proposed oil terminal at port a big victory for Vancouver

The Columbian
Published: January 30, 2018, 6:03am

Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday confirmed what many in our community already believed: An oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver would be detrimental to Clark County and, indeed, the entire state. Inslee was wise to reject the proposal, recognizing that the benefits of such a terminal would be dwarfed by the drawbacks.

As Inslee wrote, in reference to a recommendation from the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council: “The Council has thoroughly examined these and other issues and determined that it is not possible to adequately mitigate the risks, or eliminate the adverse impacts of the facility, to an acceptable level. When weighing all of the factors considered against the need for and potential benefits of the facility at this location, I believe the record reflects substantial evidence that the project does not meet the broad public interest standard necessary for the Council to recommend site certification.”

Andeavor (formerly Tesoro Corp.) and Savage Cos., working in concert as Vancouver Energy, have 30 days to appeal the governor’s decision. But with the Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners expected to terminate the port’s lease with the companies, Inslee’s decision is one more declaration that the terminal is a lousy idea for Vancouver. The companies would be wise to stop pursuing a plan that was misguided from the start.

For more than four years, the proposed terminal has been a focus of discussion while forcing residents to consider the kind of Vancouver we wish to create for the future. Public response and the election of two anti-terminal candidates to the three-member port commission have made it clear that a majority of citizens oppose the terminal. Those citizens oppose the notion of Vancouver as an oil town; they oppose the idea of a vast increase in mile-long oil trains traveling through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and past populated areas; they reject the idea that a small number of jobs at the terminal is worth the risk to lives, property and the environment.

Of course, not all residents feel this way, and not all opponents agree with every reason for rejecting the terminal. But the arguments against the proposal always have outweighed the arguments in favor of it.

Because of that, Inslee’s decision was not a surprise. The state regulatory council had recommended that the terminal be rejected, and the governor’s attention to environmental concerns has been a hallmark of his time in office.

On the other hand, the decision was not a given. In many ways, it would have been politically expedient for Inslee to approve the proposal but include restrictions that made it impractical. The fact that Inslee did not choose that approach speaks to the obvious nature of the issue and the clear need for rejection.

After four years of rancor and public hearings and consideration by state regulators, the terminal proposal has left a mark on this community. But bruises heal, and in the end we will be stronger for it. We have engaged in necessary discussions about the future of the region, building a consensus that clean energy and projects such as The Waterfront Vancouver better reflect our vision for the city and the county.

Consensus does not mean unanimity, but it does represent an opportunity for the region to move forward and build a community that we will be proud to pass along to our children and grandchildren. Gov. Inslee has reinforced that opportunity by rejecting the proposal for a large oil terminal that would have helped define the city. The apparent termination of the terminal is a victory for Vancouver.