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Washington State Pulls Plug on Columbia River Oil Terminal

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee on Monday rejected a plan to build a massive oil-by-rail terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

(CN) – Washington state Governor Jay Inslee on Monday rejected a plan to build a massive oil-by-rail terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

If built, the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal would have been the biggest facility of its kind in the United States, with the ability to handle around 360,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

The terminal would have been built at the Port of Vancouver on the Columbia River, just north of Portland, Oregon.

Environmental groups and concerned citizens have contested the project since the port approved a lease agreement with Tesoro-Savage in 2013.

In January 2016, hundreds spoke at a public meeting held by the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which is in charge of licensing large energy projects around the state. The evaluation process for the Tesoro-Savage project took more than four years.

Opponents claimed potential oil spills and explosions pose a grave risk to the Columbia River and communities along the West Coast.

Activists also fought against the terminal in court. And this past March, a 5-4 panel of the state Supreme Court concluded the lease to build it did not violate state environmental laws.

The dissenting judges in that case suggested that the designs and mitigation measures of the project should continue to be variable until the final environmental impact statement was issued. The energy council made its final environmental impact statement for the Tesoro-Savage project in November, recommending that Inslee reject it.

In a letter sent to the chair of the evaluation council Monday, Inslee rejected the application to build the terminal.

“I am persuaded by the council's finding that, in the event of an earthquake, seismic conditions at the site present an unacceptable and potentially catastrophic risk to the public,” Inslee wrote to council chair Kathleen Drew.

“Given the proposed location of the facility, I am concerned about the likelihood of an oil spill impacting the Columbia River or reaching the Pacific Ocean,” Inslee said.

“The council found that the impacts of a Columbia River oil spill on water quality, wetlands, and fish and wildlife would be significant and cannot be sufficiently mitigated.”

The governor also noted the risk of fire or explosion, and the problems they would cause for the community.

Environmental groups praised Inslee’s decision, calling the proposed oil terminal “absurdly dangerous and destructive.”

“The threat of an earthquake or accident creating an oil spill in the Columbia River poses far too great a risk to the Columbia, its salmon, and its people,” said Dan Serres, conservation director for the group Columbia Riverkeeper.

Earlier this month, the Port of Vancouver’s board of commissioners voted to put an end date on the lease for the terminal, signaling to opponents that the end of the project might be near.

Categories / Energy, Environment, Regional

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