Thursday, September 23, 2021
Sept. 23, 2021

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Vancouver Energy raps governor over oil terminal rejection

Company says it’s evaluating options over proposed crude-by-rail project

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

The company proposing to build the nation’s largest crude-by-rail terminal at the Port of Vancouver said they are disappointed with Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to reject their proposal and are evaluating their options for next steps.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Vancouver Energy said Inslee endorsed a “faulty recommendation” by the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council and that the state body that evaluated the terminal proposal for four years is “setting an impossible standard for permitting new energy facilities in the state.”

In November, EFSEC took the highly unusual move in its near 50 years of existence to unanimously recommend the governor deny the project. In most other large energy projects it has evaluated, EFSEC has approved them outright or approved them with some conditions.

The governor concurred with the council’s recommendation and rejected the company’s site certification application.

“This decision sends a clear anti-development message from state leadership that will have far-reaching negative impacts for industries across Washington state,” the statement reads.

Vancouver Energy said the state’s Final Environmental Impact Statement of their project showed that construction and normal operation of the terminal would not have significant unavoidable impacts that couldn’t be mitigated.

If built, the terminal would handle an average of 360,000 barrels of oil per day, shipped by rail from the Upper Midwest and transloaded into marine vessels bound for refineries in Alaska, California and Washington.

“Rejecting essential infrastructure on the basis of risks the evaluation council found to be extremely unlikely, and which are inherent to transportation occurring across the country today, is no way to govern,” the statement reads.

In a letter sent to EFSEC on Monday, Inslee explained that he found “ample reasons” to deny the project but was especially struck by the site’s vulnerability to an earthquake, the likely harms to the Columbia River or Pacific Ocean in the event of an oil spill, and the potential harm a fire or explosion at the facility would cause to Vancouver and/or other people and properties near the port.

“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,” Inslee wrote.

Officials at Vancouver Energy argue that their facility and associated facilities “would have been far superior and more robust with regard to the potential for an earthquake or oil spill, than the crude oil trains that are already moving through the state every day and virtually all existing infrastructure in Washington.”

As of Monday, Vancouver Energy has 30 days to appeal the governor’s decision to Thurston County Superior Court.

EFSEC  started its evaluation of the terminal proposal in 2013. It was the first oil terminal and by far the largest and probably the most contentious proposal the council ever considered.

EFSEC was created with the intention of being a one-stop permitting body for large energy projects proposed around the state. It’s tasked with weighing the benefits of a project against the potential environmental impacts for the state of Washington.

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