Category Archives: Local land use authority

Washington Agency Votes to Reject Massive Oil-by-Rail Terminal

Repost from DeSmogBlog

Washington Agency Votes to Reject Vancouver Energy’s Massive Oil-by-Rail Terminal

By Justin Mikulka • Wednesday, November 29, 2017 – 10:29
Portland, Oregon, bridge with banner reading 'Coal oil gas none shall pass'
Portland, Oregon, bridge with banner reading ‘Coal oil gas none shall pass’

In another major blow to the West Coast oil-by-rail industry, a Washington state agency voted unanimously to recommend Governor Jay Inslee reject the Vancouver Energy oil terminal. Proposed for construction in Vancouver, Washington, along the Columbia River, it would be the largest oil-by-rail facility in the country.

Washington State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) has been reviewing the project since 2013 — reportedly the longest review period ever for the council. However, its November 28 meeting and vote on the final recommendation for the Tesoro Savage–backed project only took 10 minutes.

Given the reality of climate change, there is simply no reason to build new fossil fuel infrastructure, especially for the export of extreme oil,” said Matt Krogh of activist group Stand, one of many groups opposing the Vancouver Energy project. “The entire reason behind this proposal was to move crude oil from the middle of North America to overseas markets. Simply put, this oil is not for us — and the proposal would leave every single community along the rail lines with all of the risk and none of the reward.”

Vancouver Energy told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the council has “set an impossible standard” for new energy facilities in Washington.

Proposed by Tesoro Savage Petroleum Terminal LLC (also known as Vancouver Energy), the facility is designed to handle 360,000 barrels of oil per day. Expectations are that the facility would receive both the highly volatile light Bakken oil as well as Canadian tar sands oil, with much of it traveling through the Columbia River Gorge. In 2016 an oil train derailed and caught fire in Mosier, Oregon, with some of the oil ending up in the Columbia River, which has already been suffering major declines of its once-historic salmon populations.

Map of proposed Vancouver Energy oil by rail terminal on the Columbia River
A map of the proposed facility from its Final Environmental Impact Statement. Credit: Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal Facility

Despite lower oil prices, U.S. imports of Canadian tar sands oil reached record levels in 2017 and are currently at 3.3 million barrels per day. More of that oil has been moving by rail recently, and as overall tar sands production continues to rise, industry observers predict large potential increases in shipping more of it by rail over the next several years.

Rich Kruger, CEO of tar sands producer Imperial (the Canadian affiliate of ExxonMobil), recently commented on how rail was becoming more attractive as a way to get oil to America.

Rail is increasingly competitive,” Kruger told Bloomberg. “There are times when we look at the pipeline alternative, [but] the variable cost aspect of rail is a more attractive means for us to get to the mid-Western or Gulf coast markets.”

West Coast Oil-by-Rail Plans

Should Washington Governor Inslee, who has 60 days to make a final decision, follow the recommendation to reject the Vancouver Energy oil terminal, it would throw a major wrench in oil industry plans for Canadian tar sands and Bakken oil in the West. As DeSmog reported in June, oil-by-rail remains part of the industry’s long-term plans to get oil to West Coast refineries.

If Governor Inslee stops this project, it will join the growing list of oil terminals in the West rejected after intense local opposition. Earlier this month a California court ruled that an oil refinery and rail project in Bakersfield could not proceed because its environmental review was inadequate.

Earlier this year the Washington Supreme Court voted unanimously to deny an oil-by-rail project in Grays Harbor because that project lacked a comprehensive environmental review that considered the Ocean Resources Management Act.

Also in 2017, a proposed Phillips 66 oil-by-rail project in California was voted down by the San Luis Obispo County planning commission. In 2016 the city council in Benicia, California, voted unanimously to reject Valero’s proposed oil-by-rail project.

Growing awareness of the risks of oil train terminals has led many communities where they are proposed to back away from such projects.

Local Election Was Proxy Vote on Vancouver Oil Terminal

Because Vancouver Energy’s proposed oil-by-rail facility is sited in the Port of Vancouver, a recent electoral race for one of the port commission’s three seats became a proxy fight over the oil terminal.

The race was between Don Orange, owner of a local auto repair shop and opponent of the oil-by-rail project, and Kris Greene, an insurance agent who was backed by large amounts of money from oil and rail corporations. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Greene raised “nearly $600,000, with 87 percent coming from Vancouver Energy and backers of the project” and also received support from a PAC, funded in part by rail company BNSF and Tesoro, which spent $160,000.

However, Orange also raised close to $400,000, with considerable support coming from the Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund.

Orange thought there was little question why so much money was pouring into a local election for a seat on a commission that pays around $10,000 a year.

This is a choice of what our economy should look like,” said Orange. “It is a choice of having a vibrant small business economy or becoming a big oil town.”

The election’s results showed how the majority of the community felt about the oil-by-rail project: despite being outspent by Greene, Orange won over 64 percent of the vote.

Current port commissioner Eric LaBrant was shocked by the results, saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this in local politics … This election shows where the community wants to go and what kind of business the community wants to have there at the port.”

Still, the final decision on the oil terminal lies with the governor, and even then, the door remains open for either side to take legal action.

Main image: People’s Climate March PDX Credit: David SierralupeCC BY 2.0

 

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Baltimore council members propose ban on new crude oil facilities

From an email by Jennifer Kunze, Maryland Program Organizer, 
Clean Water Action
[See also the Baltimore Sun story, below]

Thu, Oct 19, 2017

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to share the exciting news that the Baltimore zoning code change to prohibit new or expanded crude oil terminals has been officially introduced!  You can download the bill here, and here is some coverage of it in the Baltimore Sun and our local NPR station.  Taylor and I would be happy to answer any questions about it!

Have a great day,

Jennifer Kunze
Maryland Program Organizer
Clean Water Action
WebsiteFacebookTwitter


Repost from The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore council members propose ban on new crude oil facilities

By Ian Duncan, October 16, 2017

Two members of the Baltimore City Council want to ban new crude oil terminals from the city as part of an effort to limit the number of oil trains traveling through the area.

Council members Mary Pat Clarke and Ed Reisinger introduced a proposed change to the city’s zoning laws Monday that would add the oil terminals to a list of banned facilities, ranking them alongside nuclear power plants and incinerators.

“Crude oil shipments are potential hazards to residents and entire neighborhoods,” Reisinger said in a statement.

The council members said they were turning to the zoning code because federal law stops city authorities from directly regulating rail. They hope limiting the terminal capacity will mean there will be less interest in sending oil trains to Baltimore.

Two existing facilities in Baltimore would be allowed to stay but could not expand in any way under the proposal.

For years environmental activists have been sounding the alarm about crude oil that is transported by rail, which can lead to deadly explosions in the case of an accident. In 2013, 47 people died when a train carrying crude oil exploded in Canada.

Precise details of the shipments are scarce, but with the price of oil low, the practice is widely believed to currently be at a low ebb. Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for CSX Transportation, said no oil trains have operated in Baltimore or anywhere else on the company’s network for months. Doolittle also said the company has never run dedicated oil trains through the city, but had moved small amounts of crude on mixed trains.

Clarke said the dip in the market meant it was the right time for the council to take up the proposed restrictions.

“It doesn’t put jobs in jeopardy,” she said. “We don’t know when the marketplace may change. If it does we want to have already capped out the capacity of Baltimore facilities.”

The operator of one of the existing terminals declined to comment; the other did not respond to questions.

Environmental groups say there’s reason to think that if the price of oil picks up again, companies would seek to expand the number of terminals in Baltimore. That’s what happened during the last boom several years ago, but the plans were blocked.

Jennifer Kunze, an organizer with Clean Water Action, said it makes sense to put limits in place now.

“This is really a preventative measure,” she said.

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Zoning Out Fossil Fuels: Local Action for A Better Future

Repost from STAND.earth  (See far below for webcast)

#ClimateIsLocal

Every environmental attack by the Trump Administration further emphasizes the importance of taking local action on climate. Climate inaction at the federal level isn’t new–and neither is real success on climate action at the local level.
 
Hidden by the barrage of bad news stories about hurricanes, wildfires, and international climate agreements, are dozens of good news stories about frontline communities defeating dirty fuel projects and municipalities leading the way on zoning out new fossil fuel infrastructure. 
 
Towns and counties have local land use powers that allow them to change regulations to prevent the siting of new fossil fuel infrastructure. Around the US, activists and NGOs have been working with these city and county governments to effectively “zone out” the ability to permit new dirty fuel projects. 
 
A few of the examples:

  • In Whatcom County, Washington, the County Council will hold a public hearing on 9/26/17 and vote to pass an extension of the moratorium on accepting applications for new infrastructure that could be used for unrefined fossil fuel export. This will eventually become codified in the county’s land use policy.
  • In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the board of Harbor Commissioners and Public Works department, operating under the City of Milwaukee, amended a lease to not allow US Oil to “receive, handle, store, ship or otherwise process or distribute crude oil” at the port.
  • In Tacoma, Washington, a permitting freeze similar to Whatcom’s is close to passage, with plans to alter the port’s industrial zoning to prevent new dirty fuel projects.
  • In Portland, Oregon, an ordinance was passed to prevent the siting of bulk crude storage in the city. The legal challenge from industry is winding through the courts, but the ordinance has a good chance of being upheld.

If implemented broadly, passing municipal land use ordinances can prevent the growth of the fossil fuel economy, and be a critical element in fighting global warming, regardless of what the Trump Administration tries to do.

We hosted a recent webcast with activists from the efforts in Whatcom County, WA and Portland, OR.

Want the local resources mentioned in the webcast? STAND.earth has got you covered. Click here.

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