The cities of Vancouver and Spokane share many values. Both enjoy strong local businesses, vibrant downtowns, a sense of fierce political independence and a deep connection to the rivers that flow through our cities.
Unfortunately, we also share the prospect of 28 dangerous crude oil trains per week traveling through our downtowns to the proposed Tesoro Savage oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver. From there, Tesoro could export the oil to overseas markets.
The largest of its kind in North America, Tesoro’s proposal would undermine the health, safety and economic vitality of Vancouver and Spokane. The state’s recently released environmental analysis stated: “In the event of a crude oil fire or explosion along the rail transportation corridor, train operators and the general public in the vicinity of the accident could be at risk of injury or fatality from blast wind, heat, burns, smoke, and fumes; the impacts would be major.”
We should not accept these risks for the profit of an oil company, and we request that Gov. Jay Inslee stand with our cities by rejecting the oil terminal.
Our cities are keenly aware of oil train risks. We received a tragic wake-up call when a fiery oil train derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec, killed 47 people. Lac Megantic forced us to imagine how oil trains could affect our cities. Since then, over a dozen incidents have spilled millions of gallons of oil, caused thousands of people to evacuate and destroyed millions of dollars in property. It’s simply too dangerous.
We are also opposed to oil trains because we are pro-jobs. The oil terminal will harm our economy by threatening existing and new local businesses.
In Vancouver, 101 local businesses are standing up to dirty oil because they know that building a hub for oil export is not compatible with a growing economy. Even the local Longshore union, which could get jobs from loading the ships, opposes the project as too dangerous.
In Spokane, oil trains would threaten hundreds of downtown businesses. And the math on oil trains is simple: If Tesoro builds the terminal, both cities will see 28 new oil trains every week. If our communities stand up to the terminal, those trains don’t come.
The good news is that we don’t have to accept these risks. Our state leaders are reviewing the impacts of the Tesoro oil terminal. Inslee’s energy council held hearings in our communities in early January, and thousands of people – including firefighters, business owners, longshoremen, physicians, teachers, faith leaders, tribal leaders and neighborhood activists – urged Inslee and the council to deny Tesoro’s proposed terminal.
In fact, Washington’s energy council has never received so much input on any project, and nearly all of the feedback came in opposition to Tesoro’s terminal and more dangerous oil trains. After the energy council makes its recommendation, the governor makes the final decision.
We urge Inslee to stand with our cities, our businesses and our citizens to deny the Tesoro oil terminal.
Ben Stuckart is Spokane City Council president. Bart Hansen is a Vancouver city councilman.