Port of Vancouver

Loco Steve
The Port of Vancouver, Wash., might get more oily.

Pacific Northwesterners worried by three planned new coal export hubs along their shorelines have something new to fear.

Oil refiner Tesoro and terminal operator Savage are trying to secure permits to build the region’s biggest crude oil shipping terminal at the Port of Vancouver, along the Washington state side of the Columbia River.

KPLU reports that the proposed terminal would receive crude by rail from oil fields in North Dakota and transfer it onto oceangoing tankers for delivery to refineries along the West Coast. And that’s just one of many plans to boost shipments of oil through the region to coastal ports. Environmentalists are not pleased, fearing oil spills among other problems.

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From The Columbian:

The Port of Vancouver got an earful Thursday from backers and opponents of a proposed crude-oil transfer terminal who packed the Board of Commissioners’ hearing room to trumpet their arguments.

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Executives with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies, who want to build the terminal to handle as much as 380,000 barrels of oil per day, told commissioners the project capitalizes on rising U.S. oil production, boosts the local economy and will operate in ways that minimize harm to the environment.

“A lot of family-wage jobs will be created,” said Kent Avery, a senior vice president for Savage.

Critics told commissioners the project, which would haul oil by rail and move it over water, conflicts with the port’s own sustainability goals, increases the risk of oil spills in the Columbia River and further fuels global warming.

“This is a really big gamble,” said Jim Eversaul, a Vancouver resident and retired U.S. Coast Guard chief engineer.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) will have the final decision on the proposal. From the Columbian again:

Port managers are negotiating the terms of a lease agreement with Tesoro and Savage. Commissioners may decide a proposed lease arrangement on July 23.

Such a decision won’t end the matter, though. The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council will scrutinize the proposed crude oil facility and make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say.

The council’s review could take up to a year or more. The companies hope to launch an oil terminal at the port in 2014.

The Seattle-based nonprofit Sightline reports that 11 port terminals and refineries in Washington and Oregon “are planning, building, or already operating oil-by-rail shipments” and “if all of the projects were built and operated at full capacity, they would put an estimated 20 mile-long trains per day on the Northwest’s railway system.”