OLYMPIA, Wash. (CN) - A giant oil terminal project near the mouth of the Columbia River threatens the river and communities throughout the West Coast, environmental and community groups say.
Tesoro Refining & Marketing Co. and Savage Companies (Tesoro-Savage) plan to build an oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver, on the Columbia River.
The facility would provide crude oil to refineries across the West Coast, and is expected to handle around 360,000 barrels per day.
If built, it would provide the largest volume of oil by rail transported in the United States, The Columbian newspaper reported.
Environmental and neighborhoods have been fighting the project since the port approved a lease agreement with Tesoro-Savage in 2013.
They claim there are grave risks of oil spills and explosions that could harm the Columbia River and communities along the West Coast.
Washington's Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council oversees the review process. Last week eight groups petitioned the council to intervene.
The groups are Columbia Riverkeeper, Climate Solutions, ForestEthics, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association, Sierra Club, Spokane Riverkeeper, and Washington Environmental Council.
"This extraordinary transformation of the Columbia River into a fossil fuels transportation hub is unprecedented in the Pacific Northwest," attorney Kristen Boyles of Earthjustice wrote in the petition.
"While crude-by-rail proposals have been on the rise in recent years, Tesoro-Savage's proposal is nearly as large as the volumes of all other Pacific Northwest crude-by-rail projects combined."
The petition notes the risks of oil spills and explosions, and says the project could cause a host of other problems.
"[E]ven in the absence of a catastrophe, the everyday operation of this project would result in significant and continuous environmental and public health degradation via a daily parade of rail and river traffic, harmful air and water emissions, harm to fish and wildlife species, and increased greenhouse gas emissions," the 27-page petition states.
The groups wish to intervene to help determine if the Tesoro Savage project complies with local regulations and federal environmental laws, and its potential effects on wildlife and waterways.
Objections to the petitions to intervene are due by Friday.
The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council plans to release a draft environmental impact statement in May.
The groups seek full participation in the review process, including the ability to appear at all hearings, cross-examine witnesses, and introduce evidence.
Their lead counsel is Kristen Boyles with Earthjustice, of Seattle.