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News / Business / Clark County Business

Environmentalists find issues with port policy

‘International export’ language in draft raises concerns

By Jeffrey Mize, Columbian staff reporter
Published: June 24, 2019, 6:05am

Environmentalists, although pleased the Port of Vancouver’s latest draft policy opposes bulk fossil fuel terminals, say they have concerns about specific provisions.

The proposed policy, which will be reviewed by port commissioners Tuesday, is one way the port is trying to move past abandoned plans to build the nation’s largest rail-to-marine crude oil terminal on the Columbia River waterfront.

Dan Serres, conservation director for Columbia Riverkeeper, said the latest draft is a step in that direction.

“It’s not just a matter of learning the lessons,” he said. “This port commission has listened to the community.”

Public meeting

What: Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners meeting that includes reviewing a draft renewable/clean energy policy.

When: 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Where: Port offices, 3103 N.W. Lower River Road.

Television: CVTV live coverage, Channels 21 and 321.

More information, including draft policy: www.portvanusa.com/assets/Com-Mtg-062519.pdf

Serres referenced the election of Commissioner Eric LaBrant in 2015 and Commissioner Don Orange in 2017 to the three-member board. Both candidates won in part because of their opposition to the oil terminal, which Gov. Jay Inslee rejected in early 2018.

“The community has clearly expressed in the last two elections it wants a healthy, safe, vibrant waterfront,” Serres said.

An April version of the draft renewable/clean energy policy said the port would not pursue bulk crude oil or coal terminals. Environmentalists advocating local action to combat climate change want the port to adopt a policy against all fossil fuel terminals, including liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas.

The policy’s latest version says the port “chooses not to pursue new bulk fossil fuel terminals for international export of bulk fossil fuel cargoes on current port-owned industrial property.”

The language, specifically the “for international export” words, continues to trouble environmentalists, including Linda Garcia, a Fruit Valley neighborhood resident who received the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize for organizing opposition to the oil terminal.

“That still leaves a crack in the armor, allowing export of fossil fuels to other areas of the U.S, and potential expansion to accept those sources for domestic export,” Garcia wrote in an email.

“This is not good policy. It’s merely pre-emptive linguistics. The port needs strong, solid policy in place. Otherwise, we are, as a region, right back at square one where we started years ago.”

Cathyrn Chudy said the port’s policy needs to unequivocally reject bulk fossil fuel terminals.

“This unfortunately would still leave the door open for bulk terminals that involve fossil fuels for domestic destinations and is not acceptable,” she wrote in an email.

Serres said he, too, has concerns about the “international export” wording. Tesoro-Savage, the joint venture that would have brought up to 360,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil a day to Vancouver, never said it would ship the oil overseas, he said.

The port’s website continues to have content about the scuttled Tesoro-Savage project that says oil would be shipped to refineries in Alaska, California and Washington.

The draft policy also includes a section about not affecting existing port tenants. Serres said he doesn’t want to see a parcel converted to a different use, which is what happened with Zenith Energy on the Willamette River waterfront in Portland.

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“We don’t want to see something like what has occurred in Portland, where a small asphalt facility is trying to morph into a large oil train terminal,” he said.

Although environmentalists have been the most publicly outspoken in pushing the port to prohibit all future fossil fuel terminals, business groups have advised the port to move cautiously.

The Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce sent a June 3 letter saying the port should continue following environmentally sound practices “without artificial barriers, which very likely will have unintended consequences translating into fewer jobs and less vitality for all.”

John McDonagh, the chamber’s president/ CEO, said in an email the chamber wants the port to rely on commitments made in its 2018 strategic plan and avoid a policy that would jeopardize jobs and commerce.

“The revision appears to address both of our concerns,” he wrote.

Columbian staff reporter