A partnership of Tesoro and Savage has received a green light to take the next step towards shipping Bakken crude through the Port of Vancouver at the same time environmentalists are mounting opposition to the plan, building their case on this month’s Quebec rail disaster.
The Tesoro-Savage plan to lease 41 acres of oil terminal facilities for $45 million over 10 years was approved July 22 by port commissioners and now goes to the Washington state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which will make a recommendation to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
The companies said they expect to spend about $100 million on the terminal which would provide 120 fulltime jobs as well as agree to rail and operational safety conditions.
If the project goes ahead, Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains could start operating within a year.
They would deliver Bakken crude on as many as four unit trains a day to six storage tanks capable of holding 360,000 barrels for shipment to 19 California, Alaska and British Columbia refineries.
Tesoro, Savage and BNSF said they will use modern rail cars and double-hulled crude tankers.
The trains would run through the Columbia River Gorge and the City of Vancouver.
Rail already in useRail is already used to deliver oil to the U.S. Oil Refinery in Tacoma and the Tesoro refinery near Anacortes. Other terminals are planned for Tacoma and Grays Harbor County.
Vancouver and Portland members of Climate Parents, a national environmental organization, presented the port commissioners with 14,000 signatures of people demanding rejection of the proposal.
Opponents say the terminal would increase the risks of oil spills and release toxic wastes into the atmosphere.
Demonstrators outside the hearing held banners in English and French that read, “In solidarity with Lac-Megantic,” referring to the Quebec town where an unmanned train carrying 50,000 barrels of Bakken crude derailed, catching fire and setting off a series of explosions that cost an estimated 47 lives and destroyed the town center.
Dan Serres with Columbia Riverkeepers said he is also concerned about the possibility of tanker accidents, saying a “spill of any size (in the river) would have an incredibly negative impact on the water quality ... and on the salmon habitat. Then there are people downstream who drink the water.”
A spokesman for Savage said there will a “lot of opportunity for community involvement and engagement in the process. We intend to have open dialogue.”