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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane-area residents can weigh in on Vancouver oil terminal Thursday

FILE - Train cars, seen here in October 2014, carry flammable liquids head west through downtown. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - Train cars, seen here in October 2014, carry flammable liquids head west through downtown. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Local residents will have a chance to sound off this week on an oil terminal proposed for the Port of Vancouver that would funnel four more oil trains daily though Sandpoint and Spokane.

A public hearing on the Vancouver Energy Terminal’s draft environmental statement takes place Thursday evening in Spokane Valley. Project opponents are expecting about 350 people at the hearing.

“It’s a long way from the Bakken oil fields to Vancouver,” said Laura Ackerman, oil policy director for the Spokane-based Lands Council, which opposes the project. “It’s just a game of darts where an oil train will slip off the tracks. ”

The Vancouver Energy Terminal would be one of the largest in the nation, accepting about 360,000 barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s Bakken region and Alberta’s tar sands.

The $210 million terminal is a joint project of Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. Crude oil would be unloaded from the trains and put on tankers for shipment to West Coast refineries.

The project has drawn intense interest statewide. Last week, about 1,000 people turned out for a public hearing at the Clark County fairgrounds. The city of Spokane, several environmental groups and tribes are interveners in the project, which gives them a seat at the table during the state’s formal discussions on the terminal.

Tesoro officials are touting the project’s economic development potential, including 320 construction jobs and 176 permanent jobs at the Port of Vancouver. Company officials say the terminal will help promote North American energy independence, and that domestic crude has less impact on the environment than imported oil.

Opponents have raised concerns about safety, given a string of fiery oil train derailments in North America over the past few years, including a 2013 accident in Quebec that killed 47 people. Two or three of the mile-long oil trains already pass daily through Spokane, Rathdrum and Sandpoint on their way to refineries in Western Washington.

In addition to the potential for spills and explosions, the extra oil train traffic will mean more congestion at railroad crossings and more diesel particulate pollution for communities on the route, said the Land Council’s Ackerman.

Comments at the hearing will be used in the development of a final environmental impact statement for the terminal.

Whether the Vancouver Energy Terminal is built is ultimately Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision. After the final impact statement is released, Washington’s10-member Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council will make a recommendation to the governor, who then must make a decision within 60 days.

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