Developers have said the terminal — which would be the largest of its kind in the nation — could help reduce West Coast dependence on foreign oil. Environmentalists and others have fought a fierce battle — and time for getting permits now seems to be running out.
A crude-by-rail oil terminal proposed for the Columbia River received what may be a death blow Tuesday from the Vancouver port commission, which voted unanimously to terminate a key lease unless all permits and other approvals are obtained by March 31.
The chances of those permits coming through by that deadline appear remote.
Opponents hailed the 3-0 commission vote as a major defeat for the $210 million Vancouver Energy project, which seeks to bring crude from North Dakota and Montana by rail to a port terminal, then ship the oil by water to West Coast refineries.
“This should be a signal for communities across the country, the oil industry does not get to decide your future,” said Rebecca Ponzio, director of Stand Up to Oil Campaign.
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Commission support eroded after the November election, when project opponent Don Orange won a Port seat by a wide margin.
Resistance has been fierce from the start, in part because of worries about derailments and fires from an average four trains a day that would carry up to 360,000 barrels of crude to the terminal.
Project developers say the terminal — which would be the largest of its kind in the nation — could help reduce West Coast dependence on foreign oil. The plant would sit on more than 47 acres at the Vancouver port along the Columbia River. It would directly employ 176 people and an additional 440 off site in what proponents say would be a major economic boost to the region.
The terminal is a joint venture between Tesoro and Savage. It is one of a series of high-profile fossil-fuel projects proposed in Washington state in recent years, all of which have faced strong headwinds from environmentalists seeking to block these developments and accelerate a transition to renewable energy.
The terminal was proposed during a period of high oil prices and a lack of pipeline capacity to transport Bakken Shale crude to markets. Since then, oil prices have declined and new pipelines have come online to service these fields.
Back in November, the project suffered a big setback when the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council voted to recommend that Gov. Jay Inslee reject a state permit for the terminal.
Inslee has a 60-day window, from mid-December, when he formally received that recommendation, to decide whether to approve the permit.