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Panel: Washington governor should not approve oil terminal

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 28, 2017

Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters about ongoing budget negotiations, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in Olympia. (Rachel La Corte / Associated Press)
Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters about ongoing budget negotiations, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in Olympia. (Rachel La Corte / Associated Press)
From staff and wire reports

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee should reject a massive oil-by-rail terminal proposed for the port of Vancouver, a state panel recommended Tuesday.

In a meeting that lasted about 10 minutes, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council voted unanimously to recommend against the Vancouver Energy terminal proposed for a location along the Columbia River. The vote follows a recommendation from the council staff and will be sent to Inslee by Dec. 29. He has 60 days after that to make a final decision.

The terminal, a joint venture of Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., would receive about 360,000 barrels of crude oil a day by trains at the port of Vancouver. Oil would temporarily be stored on site and then loaded onto tankers and ships bound for West Coast refineries.

Many of those trains would come through Spokane on the way to Vancouver from oil fields to the north and east. Two or three oil trains pass through downtown Spokane on elevated tracks most days; the proposed terminal would increase shipments by as many as four trains a day.

Vancouver Energy said in an emailed statement Tuesday that it was extremely disappointed. The panel “has set an impossible standard for new energy facilities based on the risk of incidents that the Final Environmental Impact Statement characterizes as extremely unlikely,” said Jeff Hymas, a Vancouver Energy spokesman.

Roselyn Marcus, interim chair of the council, noted the council weighed more than 250,000 public comments in “probably the longest process in this council’s history with issues of great significance that have never been faced by this council before.” State law requires project applicants to prove that the needs and benefits of the facility at the proposed site outweigh the negative impacts to the broad public interest, she said.

The environmental statement said the likelihood of an oil spill was low, but the consequences could be severe. Tribes, environmental groups and cities opposed the terminal.

Developers have said the terminal is needed to bring crude oil from North Dakota and other areas to a western U.S. port to meet growing fuel demands and future energy needs. They’ve argued that it could be built safely and would secure a reliable supply of energy for the state.

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