Governor Inslee has 60 days to approve or reject an application by the Tesoro oil company to build the nation’s largest crude oil export terminal on the Columbia River at the Port of Vancouver.
Over the past four years, a potent, on-the-ground coalition led by the SW Sierra Club and the local Longshore Union mobilized the people of Clark County, along with other statewide and regional organizations, to oppose the proposal.
At the county level, a strategic accomplishment was to elect a majority of Commissioners to the Port of Vancouver—despite heavily funded opposition by Tesoro. The two new Commissioners, Eric LaBrant and Don Orange, oppose the Tesoro project.
At the statewide level, this coalition focused on the environmental review by the State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC). EFSEC published its Final Environmental Impact Statement in November and then voted unanimously to recommend that Governor Inslee reject Tesoro’s application.
One of the many groups who wrote to Governor Inslee after the EFSEC decision is the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters (WSCFF). In his letter to Governor Inslee, Dennis Lawson, President of the WSCFF, said that “We see this project as a fundamental threat to our members, other first responders, and the communities we serve.”
President Lawson continued, “We have written to you before about the dangers of 120-car unit trains that carry 3.7 million gallons of Bakken crude oil through our communities each week. Approving Tesoro’s project would more than double the number of weekly oil trains in our state from 24.5 to 52.5. The expanded train traffic along the length of the 445-mile stretch of track called the Columbia River Alignment would negatively impact our members.
“It would increase by 73% the risk of a crude-by-rail spill; escalate the risks to motorists and pedestrians at 200 at-grade rail crossings; slow down emergency vehicle response by 41 minutes along the Alignment and elevate the health risks to communities, causing greater demand for emergency responses. In addition, every community within a quarter mile of the track from Spokane to Vancouver – in conjunction with first responders—would be required to prepare ‘specific evacuation plans.’”
The 60-day period for the governor’s decision began December 19th, when Inslee received the EFSEC recommendation to reject the project application.