In recent years, fossil fuel corporations have targeted Washington and Oregon as locations for fossil-fuel export facilities. A variety of companies presented the state, public ports and cities with proposals to build methanol, propane and LNG terminals, to construct facilities for storing, refining and transporting crude oil, along with a few new coal export projects. All of these proposals come with serious questions about actual benefit, safety, air quality, economic viability and a record of accidents. Their construction would also undermine any effort to reduce greenhouse gases in the face of global warming.
Communities in both states are organizing to challenge the power of these fossil fuel purveyors to have their way. These challengers are winning by joining together, showing up, speaking up and making the case for a future built on forward-thinking energy and infrastructure—though they must contend with the embedded belief in the right of corporations to decide the shape of our communities with their choice of investments and to manipulate the meaning of those investments with relentless claims about “energy independence” and continuous infusions of money into politics.
In Vancouver, Washington for example, a Tesoro and Savage Oil Company partnership has proposed the largest oil-by-rail project in North America. The terminal would be served by up to five mile-and-a-half unit oil trains bringing 360,000 barrels of crude each day. The list of groups opposing the project is long and some might surprise: the cities of Portland, Vancouver, Hood River and Spokane, Multnomah County, ILWU Local 4, Vancouver Firefighters, Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, Washington state DNR as well as numbers of local community and business groups.
The Tesoro/Savage partnership is very active in electoral politics in Vancouver and at the state level. The partnership obtained a lease from the Port of Vancouver. The company needs the 3-member Port Commission to renew the lease – but in the last election, Clark County voters elected a new commissioner who opposes renewal. This year’s election pits another opponent of the project, Don Orange, against an enthusiastic supporter, Kris Greene. A win by Orange would create a Commission majority that could refuse to renew the Tesoro/Savage lease.
The first week in September, Tesoro/Savage dumped $75,000 in cash into the campaign of candidate Greene. According to PDC filings, before Tesoro’s infusion Greene had accumulated about $47,000 to Don Orange’s $63,700 in cash and in-kind donations. As a spokesman for the oil partnership said, “Our contribution is consistent with major contributions in recent past port elections.”
And so it was. Oil, railroad and coal interests are pouring money into Washington legislative races this year, looking for political control. The biggest contributor is Tesoro. The oil company put $22,500 into both the Leadership Council and Enterprise Washington – two soft money groups that make “independent” expenditures on behalf of Republican candidates. Another $1900 apiece went to Republican candidates in 5 Washington Senate races.
Bethany Weidner served as the Director of the Office of Policy and Planning at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission 1990-1993. Before that, she was a legislative aide to US Senator James Abourezk (D., S.D.) specializing in energy policy. Later she did other things.
Fossil fuel projects proposed for the Pacific Northwest have failed in the face of organized resistance
Ed note: Listed here are fossil fuel proposals defeated in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia in recent years. The list is exerpted from a longer list compiled by Don and Alona Steinke, leaders of the SW Sierra Club based in Vancouver, Washington.
2017 September. China’s proposed Kalama Methanol Refinery, the largest in the world. Shoreline permits denied because the Port of Kalama failed to evaluate off-site greenhouse gas emissions in the EIS.
2017 September. Aurora LNG withdrew its application for a site west of Prince Rupert on the British Columbia coast citing market conditions.
2017 August. Port of Grays Harbor announced that Contanda and REG who had proposed two crude- by-rail facilities in Grays Harbor now say they won’t bring in oil; they have not as yet withdrawn their oil terminal applications before the City of Hoquiam.
2017 July. Malaysian Petronas withdrew proposal for LNG terminal near Lelu Island in British Columbia since the market is awash in liquefied natural gas.
2017 March. NuStar’s crude-by-rail proposal in Vancouver, Washington stopped.
2017 March. Whatcom County Council issues second six-month moratorium on the movement of unrefined fossil fuels to Cherry Point.
2017 February. SSA Marine’s Gateway Pacific Terminal proposal for a coal export project at Cherry Point withdrawn.
2017 January. Lease for Longview Coal export terminal denied by Washington DNR commissioner.
2017 January. Washington State Supreme Court rules 9-0 that the State of Washington’s Ocean Resource Management Act applies to proposed oil storage and export terminals in four Washington state counties, including Grays Harbor.
2016 October. Lighthouse Resources abandoned their proposed Coal Export terminal on the Columbia River at Port of Morrow.
2016 October. Shell Puget Sound Refinery withdrew plans for an expanded crude-by-rail facility at the March Point refinery near Anacortes.
2016 July. Aberdeen City Council votes to establish a ban on future crude-by-rail proposals.
2016 July. City of Vancouver voted to establish a ban on future crude-by-rail facilities.
2016 April. China’s Northwest Innovation Works abandons proposed Tacoma methanol refinery.
2016 April. Proponents of an LNG export terminal in Warrenton, Oregon withdrew their plans.
2016 March. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected a proposed LNG export plant in Jordan Cove, Oregon.
2016 March. SSA Marine’s Gateway Pacific’s proposed coal export terminal for Cherry Point rejected by the Army Corps of Engineers citing Lummi Nation’s federal treaty rights.
2016 February. Port of Longview Commissioners vote to end negotiations with Riverside/Waterside proposed crude oil/biofuel refinery and propane terminal on the Columbia River.
2016 January. Global Partners said it would shift to ethanol export rather than crude-by-rail as the global price for Bakken crude oil fell. Global Partners had been the major crude-by-rail exporter in Oregon using Port Westward on the Columbia River.
2016 January. A New York firm, Development Partners, abandoned their plans for a 700 mw natural gas fired electricity plant in Troutdale, Oregon.
2015 November. New Port Commissioners elected: Fred Felleman, Port of Seattle. EJ Zita, Port of Olympia. Eric LaBrant, Port of Vancouver.
2015 September. Hoquiam City Council votes to establish a ban on future crude-by-rail proposals.
2015 March. Port of Longview Commission votes against Haven’s Propane/Butane by rail Export Terminal.
2014 August. Port of Olympia Commissioners Sue Gunn and George Barner vote to oppose three proposed Grays Harbor crude-by-rail export terminals, becoming the first Port in Washington State to do so. The two Commissioners were “censured” by the fossil fuel export lobby led by the Washington Public Ports Association.
2014 August. Statewide Strategy Summit on Oil Trains at The Evergreen State College’s Longhouse. Over 100 indigenous, community, labor and environmental leaders and organizers met to strategize resistance to proposed oil terminals and oil trains.