Downtown Vancouver

Vancouver port commission OKs oil train terminal

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — Port of Vancouver commissioners voted Tuesday to approve a lease for a Columbia River terminal that would take in crude oil by train from North Dakota and ship it to West Coast refineries.

About 60 people were at the port's office for the vote, which followed Monday night's public hearing, The Columbian reported.

The project will be reviewed by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which will make a recommendation to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee for a final decision.

Port managers recommended approval of the deal with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. for the economic benefits. Neighborhood and environmental groups oppose it because of safety and ecological risks.

Oil trains from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota would run through the Columbia River Gorge and Vancouver.

Demonstrators outside Monday's hearing held banners in French and English that read, "In solidarity with Lac-Megantic," a reference to the Quebec town where 50 people were killed on July 6 when a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded.

Vancouver and Portland members of the national environmental group Climate Parents presented the three port commissioners with 14,000 signatures demanding they reject the Tesoro-Savage plan. Speakers at the workshop said the terminal would increase the risks of oil spills, releases toxics into the air and worsen climate change.

Tesoro is a current tenant at the port. With Savage it wants to build a 42-acre terminal with six storage tanks capable of handling 360,000 barrels a day for shipment to 19 West Coast and British Columbia refineries, The Oregonian reported.

By comparison, the Alaska pipeline is averaging 559,000 barrels a day this year, according to Alyeska Pipeline Services. A barrel is 42 gallons.

The Vancouver terminal operation would involve as many as four, mile-long oil trains a day, operated by Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

The 10-year lease would bring the port $4.5 million a year. It currently operates on revenue of $34 million a year.

The companies also would invest up to $100 million in the terminal that would employ 120 workers, and agree to rail and operation safety plans.

Tesoro, Savage and Burlington Northern Santa Fe have said they'll use modern equipment, rail cars and double-hulled vessels.

BNSF invested $100 million in railway upgrades last year in Washington, including track through the Gorge, spokesman Gus Melonas told The Oregonian. The company is training emergency response personnel in Stevenson and Vancouver on tank car operations, he said.

Trains already deliver oil to the U.S. Oil refinery in Tacoma and the Tesoro refinery near Anacortes. BP plans to build a rail yard at its Cherry Point refinery north of Bellingham.

An oil terminal already is operating on the Columbia at a former ethanol plant at Port Westward near Clatskanie, Ore. Other oil terminals are proposed in Tacoma and Grays Harbor County.