Tag Archives: Tesoro Savage Vancouver Oil Terminal

Oil industry desperate: claims oil spills are good for wildlife and the economy

Repost from Hazmat Magazine

Testimony Implies Oil Spills Are Good For Wildlife and the Economy

By J Nicholson, August 11, 2016

As reported in thinkprogress.org, the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) has been holding hearings on the matter of a proposed oil-by-rail terminal that could be built in Vancouver, Washington.  If approved, it would be the largest oil-by-rail facility in the country, handling some 360,000 barrels of crude oil, shipped by train, every single day.  It would also greatly increase the number of oil trains that pass through Washington, adding a total of 155 trains, per week, to the state’s railroads.

Environmentalist activists worry that an increase in oil trains could lead to an rise in oil train derailments, like the kind seen in early June when a Union Pacific train carrying Bakken crude derailed outside the Oregon town of Mosier, spilling 42,000 gallons of oil near the Columbia River.

But according to witnesses that testified before the EFSEC on behalf of Vancouver Energy – the joint venture between Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. and the entity behind the Tesoro-Savage terminal proposal – oil spills might not actually be that bad for the environment.

“The Draft Environmental Impact Statement identifies many economic impacts arising from an accident associated with Project operations, but fails to recognize economic activity that would be generated by spill response,” Todd Schatzki, vice president of Analysis Group — a consulting group that released an economic report on the terminal commissioned by Tesoro Savage — wrote in pre-filed testimony.  “When a spill occurs, new economic activity occurs to clean-up contaminated areas, remediate affected properties, and supply equipment for cleanup activities. Anecdotal evidence from recent spills suggests that such activity can be potentially large.”

Schatzki’s pre-filed testimony also includes references to both the Santa Barbara and BP oil spills’ role as job creating events.  He notes that the Santa Barbara oil spill created some 700 temporary jobs to help with cleanup, while the BP spill created short term jobs for 25,000 workers.  Schatzki does not mention that BP has paid individuals and businesses more than $10 billion to make up for economic losses caused by the spill.  Nor does he mention that California’s Economic Forecast Director predicted that the 2015 Santa Barbara oil spill would cost the county 155 jobs and $74 million in economic activity.

For the Columbia River region, the impacts of an oil spill could be equally economically devastating — a report from the Washington Attorney General’s office found that an oil spill could cost more than $170 million in environmental damages.

Keystone Pipeline (Credit: cfact.org)

Schatzki also argued that an oil spill would not necessarily have a large impact on commercial and recreational fisheries.  The Columbia River, which cuts between Oregon and Washington and borders much of the oil-train route, is one of the most important fisheries for both states.  In 2015, the total economic value of Columbia River salmon was $15.5 million, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Those fisheries, however, would not necessarily be impacted by an oil spill, Schatzki argued, because fishermen would simply avoid the areas where the spill had taken place, moving their operations elsewhere.  During cross examination, however, Schatizki said that he did not look at other fishermen’s responses to oil spills when crafting this analysis, nor did he specifically look at the length of fishing seasons or the geographic extent of various fisheries within the Columbia River.

In testimony given on July 7th, another Tesoro-Savage-associated witness, Gregory Challenger, argued that oil spills could actually have benefits for fish and wildlife.  Challenger, who worked with Vancouver Energy to analyze potential impacts and responses in the event of a worst-case discharge at the facility and along the rail line, told the committee that when oil spills cause the closure of certain fisheries or hunting seasons, it’s the animals that benefit.

“An oil spill is not a good thing.  A fishery closure is a good thing.  If you don’t kill half a million fish and they all swim upstream and spawn, that’s more fish than were estimated affected as adults,” Challenger said during his testimony.  “The responsible party is not going to get credit for that, by the way.”

 To prove his point, Challenger cited National Marine Fisheries Service data that showed that 2011, the year after the BP oil spill, had been a record year for seafood catch in the Gulf of Mexico.  And while that’s true, Shiva Polefka, policy analyst for the Center for American Progress’s Ocean Policy program, cautioned against trying to make sweeping statements for how all ecosystems would respond to an oil spill.  Following the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, researchers discovered that crude oil had soaked into the rocky beaches near the spill site, emitting toxic compounds for years that had long-term adverse impacts on salmon and herring populations.

“Does cutting fishing effort benefit fish?  Absolutely,” Polefka said.  “Enough to mitigate the horrible effects of large oil spills in every case?  Absolutely not.”

During his testimony, Challenger also brought up the Athos 1 oil spill, which sent 264,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River in 2004.  The spill, Challenger said, took place during duck hunting season, and forced an early closure for recreational hunting in the area.

“There were an estimate of 3,000 birds affected by the oil, and 13,000 birds not shot by hunters not shot by hunters, because of the closed season,” he said.  “We don’t get any credit for that, but it’s hard to deny that it’s good for birds to not be shot.”

According to U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), seabirds are especially vulnerable to oil spills, because of the way that oil affects their usually-waterproof feathers — when those feathers become matted with oil, a seabird loses its ability to regulate its temperature.  Often, it will try to preen itself to remove the oil, which only forces the oil into its internal organs, causing problems like diarrhea, kidney and liver damage, and anemia.  Oil can also enter into a seabird’s lungs, leading to respiratory problems.

Opponents of the terminal were quick to dismiss Schatzki and Challenger’s testimony as “hollow,” especially in the face of the recent derailment and oil spill in Mosier.

oil spill07“We see Tesoro moving towards these more desperate arguments to try to downplay the risk of the project,” Dan Serres, conservation director with Columbia Riverkeeper, told ThinkProgress. “It’s hard to imagine that EFSEC will buy the argument that oil spills pose anything other than a grave risk to the Columbia River estuary.”

Following the EFSEC hearings, the committee will submit a recommendation to Washington Governor Jay Inslee to approve, conditionally approve, or deny the project.

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    REUTERS: California planners reject Valero oil-by-rail project

    Repost from Reuters – Markets

    California planners reject Valero oil-by-rail project

    By Kristen Hays, Feb 12, 2016 1:29pm EST

    Feb 12 Valero Energy Corp’s proposed oil-by-rail project at its northern California refinery was quashed by local planners this week, the first such facility on the U.S. West Coast to end a years-long wait for permits with a rejection.

    The Benicia Planning Commission late Thursday unanimously renounced Valero’s request to build the project at the conclusion of four consecutive public hearings dominated by scores of opponents.

    Valero first proposed building the rail facility at its 145,000 barrels per day Benicia refinery to offload up to 70,000 bpd of inland U.S. and Canadian heavy crude three years ago.

    Several other West Coast rail projects await such decisions by local or state governments. Those include Tesoro Corp’s proposed 360,000 bpd railport in Washington State – the largest in the nation – and Phillips 66’s newly-trimmed 25,000 bpd facility at its Santa Maria refinery in Arroyo Grande, California.

    Others gave up with U.S. crude prices down more than 70 percent since mid-2014 on global oversupply. That decline squeezed discounts of inland U.S. crude to global crudes, eroding oil-by-rail’s profitability.

    Global Partners LP last month laid off workers and said the company would drop crude handling at its ethanol terminal in Oregon in the fallout of the oil rout.

    Valero can ask the Benicia City Council to override planners and approve a permit for the project. A spokeswoman said on Friday that the company would “evaluate our options for appeal.”

    The staff for Benicia’s planners recommended approval.

    When Valero first proposed the project, oil-by-rail was growing fast and U.S. and Canadian crudes were much cheaper than global crudes, even with added transportation costs of moving via train. Rail also gave West Coast refiners a way to tap those crudes as no major oil pipelines cross the Rocky Mountains.

    Not anymore. Shipments originating on top U.S. railroads fell 23 percent by the third quarter last year from the peak of 1.02 million bpd in the third quarter of 2014, according to the American Association of Railroads.

    The Tesoro project remains under review by a state council in Washington, which will hold hearings in June and July.

    San Obispo County planners are expected to decide on the Phillips 66 project next month, the company said. Staff for those planners recommended rejecting the facility.

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      CREDO Action generates over 47,000 letters opposing Tesoro-Savage oil-by-rail export terminal

      Repost from CREDO Action
      [UPDATE – make that 67,883 letters as of midday, 12/28/5!  – RS]

      Stop the Tesoro-Savage oil-by-rail export terminal

      Stop the Tesoro-Savage oil-by-rail export terminal
      Stop the Tesoro-Savage oil-by-rail export terminal

      This week, Congress give Big Oil a huge holiday gift: lifting the four-decades-old ban on crude oil exports.1  With the ink still drying on the landmark Paris climate agreement, this is a significant setback that could promote U.S. drilling and increase carbon emissions.

      That makes it more important than ever to stop the next step in Big Oil’s plans: building huge terminals to export more crude overseas, like the massive Tesoro-Savage oil train terminal proposed in Vancouver, Washington.

      Tesoro-Savage would be the largest oil-by-rail facility in North America,2 shipping up to 360,000 barrels per day of crude to be burned across the world — making the project nearly half the size of the Keystone XL pipeline.

      Washington officials are now taking public comments on the plan. Washington Governor Jay Inslee has shown strong climate leadership, and it’s vital to let him know that people in Washington, and across the country are standing against this project.

      Stop the Tesoro-Savage oil train terminal. Click here to submit a public comment now.

      Tesoro-Savage’s 360,000 barrels per day of crude would be carried across the country from North Dakota to Washington in dangerous, explosive oil trains, posing a huge risk to public safety every step of the way to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.

      And the damage to the climate affects all of us. Once massive oil infrastructure projects like pipelines and export terminals have been built, they keep running for decades. But when we stop them, we can help keep carbon in the ground.3

      In Paris, the world signaled a historic consensus on moving away from fossil fuels. The last thing Governor Jay Inslee or the United States should do is allow oil companies to hijack that agreement by keeping the world market hooked on the oil that poses an existential threat to all of us.

      Speak out against the Tesoro-Savage oil train terminal before the January 22nd deadline.  Click here to submit a public comment now.

        1. Big Oil Companies Can’t Wait For Repeal of U.S. Export Ban,” Newsweek, 12/18/15
        2. Port of Vancouver Proposal,” Columbia Riverkeeper
        3. A Convenient Lie: Why Fossil Fuel Supply Matters for the Climate,” Oil Change International, 9/3/15

      Send an email.

      Your comment to State of Washington officials:

      Please reject the Tesoro-Savage oil-by-rail terminal. The project poses serious risks to the people of Washington State, everyone living along an oil train route, and the entire country by allowing oil companies to sell more fossil fuels overseas.  Building the largest oil-by-rail terminal in North America for yesterday’s energy is the wrong path to meet today’s energy needs. This project would jeopardize Washington State’s leadership in moving away from fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy solutions.

      Click here to send this email.

       

       

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        Critics say oil train report underestimates risk

        Repost from the Spokane Spokesman-Review
        [Editor:  Oh…this sounds SO familiar….  Benicia sends solidarity and support to our friends in Washington state.  – RS]

        Critics say oil trains report underestimates risk

        By Becky Kramer, December 18, 2015
        In this Oct. 1, 2014 file photo, train cars carrying flammable liquids heads west through downtown Spokane, Wash. | Dan Pelle photo

        The chance of an oil train derailing and dumping its cargo between Spokane and a new terminal proposed for Vancouver, Washington, is extremely low, according to a risk assessment prepared for state officials.

        Such a derailment would probably occur only once every 12 years, and in the most likely scenario, only half a tank car of oil would be spilled, according to the report.

        But critics say the risk assessment – which includes work by three Texas consultants who are former BNSF Railway employees and count the railroad as a client – is based on generic accident data, and likely lowballs the risk of a fiery derailment in Spokane and other communities on the trains’ route.

        The consultants didn’t use accident data from oil train wrecks when they calculated the low probability of a derailment and spill. The report says that shipping large amounts of oil by rail is such a recent phenomanon that there isn’t enough data to produce a statistically valid risk assessment. Instead, the consultants drew on decades of state and national data about train accidents.

        That approach is problematic, said Fred Millar, an expert in hazardous materials shipments.

        Probability research is “a shaky science” to begin with, said Millar, who is a consultant for Earthjustice, an environmental law firm opposed to the terminal. “The only way that you can get anything that’s even partly respectable in a quantitative risk assessment is if you have a full set of relevant data.”

        To look at accident rates for freight trains, and assume you can draw credible comparisons for oil trains, is “very chancy,” he said. “Unit trains of crude oil are a much different animal…They’re very long and heavy, that makes them hard to handle. They come off the rails.”

        And, they’re carrying highly flammable fuel, he said.

        Terminal would bring four more oil trains through Spokane daily
        The proposed Vancouver Energy terminal would be one of the largest in the nation, accepting about 360,000 barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields and Alberta’s tar sands. For Spokane and Sandpoint, the terminal would mean four more 100-car oil trains rumbling through town each day – on top of the two or three per day that currently make the trip.

        The proposed $210 million terminal is a joint venture between Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies. Oil from rail cars would be unloaded at the terminal and barged down the Columbia River en route to West Coast refineries.

        A spill risk assessment was part of the project’s draft environmental impact statement, which was released late last month. A public meeting on the draft EIS takes place Jan. 14 in Spokane Valley. State officials are accepting public comments on the document through Jan. 22.

        The spill risk work was done by a New York company – Environmental Research Consulting – and MainLine Management of Texas, whose three employees are former BNSF employees, and whose website lists BNSF Railway as a client. The company has also done work for the Port of Vancouver, where the terminal would be located.

        The risk analysis assumes the trains would make a 1,000-mile loop through the state. From Spokane, the mile-long oil trains would head south, following the Columbia River to Vancouver. After the trains unloaded the oil, they would head north, crossing the Cascade Range at Stampede Pass before returning through Spokane with empty cars.

        Report used data on hazardous materials spills

        Oil train derailments have been responsible for a string of fiery explosions across North America in the past three years – including a 2013 accident that killed 47 people in the small town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Other oil train derailments have led to evacuations, oil spills into waterways and fires that burned for days.

        But since shipping crude oil by train is relatively new, there’s not enough statistical information about oil train accidents to do risk calculations, the consultants said several times in the risk assessment.

        Instead, they looked at federal and state data on train derailments and spills of hazardous materials dating back to 1975, determining that the extra oil train traffic between Spokane and Vancouver posed little risk to communities.

        Dagmar Schmidt Etkin, president of Environmental Research Consulting, declined to answer questions about the risk assessment. Calls to MainLine Management, which is working under Schmidt Etkin, were not returned.

        Stephen Posner, manager for the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Council, which is overseeing the preparation of the environmental impact statement, dismissed questions about potential conflicts of interest.

        “There aren’t a lot of people who have the expertise to do this type of analysis,” Posner said.

        Schmidt Etkin also worked on a 2014 oil train report to the Washington Legislature, he said. “She’s highly regarded in the field.”

        According to her company website, Schmidt Etkin has a doctorate from Harvard in evolutionary biology. The site says she provides spill and risk analysis to government regulators, nonprofits and industry groups. Her client list includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard and the American Petroleum Institute.

        Posner reviewed the scope of work outlined for the spill risk analysis.

        “We put together the best analysis we could with limited sources of information,” he said. “This is a draft document. We’re looking for input from the public on how we can make it better.”

        Spokane ‘a more perilous situation’

        The “worst case” scenario developed for the risk assessment has also drawn criticism. The consultants based it on an oil train losing 20,000 barrels of oil during a derailment. The risk assessment indicates that would be an improbable event, occurring only once every 12,000 to 22,000 years.

        In fact, twice as much crude oil was released during the 2013 Lac-Megantic accident in Quebec, said Matt Krogh, who works for Forest Ethics in Bellingham, Washington, which also opposes construction of the Vancouver Energy Terminal.

        “If I was looking at this as a state regulator, and I saw this was wrong – quite wrong – I would have them go back to the drawing board for all of it,” Krogh said.

        Krogh said he’s disappointed that former BNSF employees didn’t use their expertise to provide a more meaningful risk analysis. Instead of looking at national data, they could have addressed specific risks in the Northwest, he said.

        Oil trains roll through downtown Spokane on elevated bridges, in close proximity to schools, hospitals, apartments and work places. In recent years, the bridges have seen an increase in both coal and oil train traffic, Krogh said.

        “The No. 1 cause of derailments is broken tracks, and the No. 1 cause of broken tracks is axle weight,” he said. “We can talk about national figures, but when you talk about Spokane as a rail funnel for the Northwest, you have a more perilous situation based on the large number of heavy trains.”

        Elevated rail bridges pose an added risk for communities, said Millar, the Earthjustice consultant. The Lac-Megantic accident was so deadly because the unmanned train sped downhill and tank cars crashed into each other, he said. Not all of the cars were punctured in the crash, but once the oil started burning, the fire spread, he said.

        “If you have elevated tracks and the cars start falling off the tracks, they’re piling on top of each other,” Millar said. “That’s what Spokane has to worry about – the cars setting each other off.”

        Governor has the final say

        Railroad industry officials say that 99.9 percent of trains carrying hazardous materials reach their destination without releases. According to the risk assessment, BNSF had only three reported train derailments per year in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The railroad has spent millions of dollars upgrading tracks in Washington in recent years, and the tracks get inspected regularly, according to company officials.

        Whether the Vancouver Energy Terminal is built is ultimately Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision. After the final environment impact statement is released, the 10-member Energy and Facilities Siting Council will make a recommendation to the governor, who has the final say.

        Environmental impact statements lay out the risks of projects, allowing regulators to seek mitigation. So, it’s important that the EIS is accurate, said Krogh, of Forest Ethics.

        In Kern County, California, Earthjustice is suing over the environmental impact statement prepared for an oil refinery expansion. According to the lawsuit, the EIS failed to adequately address the risk to communities from increased oil train traffic.

        “If you have a risk that’s grossly underestimated, you’ll be making public policy decisions based on flawed data,” Krogh said.

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