Gorge leaders oppose Vancouver oil terminal as hearings wrap up
By Patrick Mulvihill, August 5, 2016
Gorge leaders spoke out against a proposed oil-by-marine terminal in Vancouver as hearings over the project’s fate came to a close July 29.
Washington State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) heard closing arguments for an environmental review of the terminal proposed by Vancouver Energy, a venture spearheaded by Tesoro Corp.
EFSEC is charged with recommending whether Washington Gov. Jay Inslee should approve or reject the 360,000-barrel per day oil hub at the Port of Vancouver, and panel’s decision is expected in late 2016.
At Friday’s hearing — the final chance for public oral testimony — local elected leaders and environmental advocates evoked the recent memory of Mosier, where a crude oil bearing train derailed and caught fire on June 3.
Arlene Burns, mayor of Mosier, gave the panel a stark depiction of the aftermath.
“We’re really still exhausted,” she said. “This is going to be an ongoing, long-term process that we’re going to be dealing with,” Burns said.
She noted that Mosier’s groundwater had been contaminated by oil during the spill. Drinking water has been declared safe, but concerns remain for the rainy season washing out remaining oil in the ground.
Peter Cornelison, a Hood River City Council member and field representative for Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, argued the risks of a new terminal — and boosted train traffic — would affect all river communities.
Proponents of the terminal highlighted economic benefits and stressed a need for United States’ independence in the oil industry. They said the terminal would be held to regulatory safeguards.
“We believe the evidence has demonstrated that this project is necessary to secure a strong sustainable reliable supply of energy for the citizens of Washington,” Jay P. Derr, an attorney representing Tesoro, said.
“We ask the council to recognize and remember the benefits the Port of Vancouver provides, and work hard to avoid … hurting those structures and processes that allow the port to provide those benefits to the community,” said David Bartz, a port attorney.
Most testimony disagreed with the terminal’s backers about the project’s safety and economic value.
Washington Attorney General’s Office came out last week against the terminal. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the potential benefits of the project are “dramatically outweighed by the potential risks and costs of a spill.”
The cities of Vancouver and Spokane also voiced opposition, a sentiment expressed in recent months by letters and resolutions by tribes, advocacy groups and governments throughout the region.
Lauren Goldberg, staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper, said the local group hopes in light of the Mosier derailment, EFSEC will recognize the risk of another fiery oil train wreck in the Columbia Gorge.
Both sides in the issue will now file closing written briefs, ending testimony. EFSEC is expected to issue a decision in late 2016. From there, Inslee will make a decision that can be appealed in state supreme court.
Protest against crude oil on Grays Harbor draws hundreds
By Bob Kirkpatrick, July 9, 2016 – 1:30am
Supporters from around the region showed up in full force to protest a proposal to ship crude oil through Grays Harbor and support the Quinault Indian Nation’s Shared Waters, Shared Values Rally in Hoquiam Friday afternoon.
Hundreds gathered at the 9th Street Dock to welcome the tribe’s flotilla of traditional canoes, kayaks and boats and to band together to protest the proposed expansion of fuel storage facilities at the Port of Grays Harbor.
“No crude oil” was the chant as they embarked on a four-block march to city hall to make their stand.
“We area at a critical place here in Grays Harbor, a decision is going to be made soon,” Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Nation said. “The future of the harbor is going to go in one direction or the other. We need to go in the direction of no crude oil in Grays Harbor … forever!”
Sharp told supporters at the rally they needed to consider what was at stake should Westway, an existing fuel storage facility on Port of Grays Harbor property in Hoquiam, be allowed to expand its site to accommodate crude oil shipments.
“We commissioned an economic study and concluded about 10,000 jobs are at risk … tribal and non-tribal fishermen and tourism related (jobs) are in jeopardy,” she said. “The general health and welfare of all citizens in Grays Harbor County will all be compromised by this decision.”
Sharp said the Quinault Nation has an obligation to defend the salmon and natural resources that would also be heavily affected if a large oil spill occurred in local waters.
“The great Billy Frank Jr. (a now-deceased leader of the Nisqually tribe and a fierce champion for tribal fishing rights and the environment) at one point said the salmon deserve to be in healthy waters,” she said. “They can’t get out of the water themselves, so it’s up to us to stand up for them and our precious resources.”
Sharp emphatically stated to the crowd that it is also the duty of the Quinault Nation to pass on the legacy of pure, unpolluted waters to future generations, and said that is why they are taking such a strong stance in this matter.
Hoquiam Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff was on hand to welcome the protesters to city hall.
“I appreciate all the time and effort put in for this demonstration,” Dickhoff said. “I got involved in government because I felt great pride in the possibilities ahead of us as a community … not just here in Hoquiam, but with all of our neighbors. This rally is a testament of shared values and I want to thank you all for coming and sharing your voices and concerns to implement change.”
Larry Thevik, vice president of the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association, was also on hand to express his concerns with the proposed expansion of crude oil storage.
“As everyone knows, Grays Harbor needs more jobs, but our members have determined the benefits from the proposed oil terminals simply do not measure up to the risks they bear,” he said. “Grays Harbor is the fourth largest estuary in the nation, a major nursery area for Dungeness crab, and an essential fish habitat for many species. It is also an area particularly sensitive to the adverse effect of an oil spill.”
Thevik said an oil spill in the harbor would lead to a catastrophic loss of habitat and could potentially impact an area much larger than Grays Harbor.
“The Nestucca oil barge that was hauled off of Grays Harbor spilled about 231,000 gallons, killed 56,000 sea birds, and left a sheen that was seen from Oregon to the tip of Vancouver Island,” he said. “Tankers that would move through Grays Harbor County would be hauling up to 15 million gallons.”
Thevik said the state Department of Ecology claims Washington State has the best spill response in the nation. But he fears the response plan in Grays Harbor wouldn’t measure up.
“No matter how high the paperwork is stacked, the oil spill response plan and spill response assets are simply not going to take care of the problem,” he said. “Booming, which is the first response when a spill occurs, loses its effectiveness in strong current and rough waters. … Currents in Grays Harbor routinely exceed 3.5 knots. Fall and winter gales blow strong and often and unless a spill occurs during daylight hours, with a slack tide in calm seas, booming will offer little defense against a spill.”
He reiterated the potential for damages from an oil spill would far exceed the benefits the terminal would provide and that the profits would go elsewhere and the risks would remain.
Thevik acknowledged tribal and non-tribal fishermen often disagree on how to allocate shared waters and shared marine sources, but said both are united in their resolve to preserve those resources.
“Our survival and future depend on that,” he said. “Working together, we the citizens of Grays Harbor and others across the state must stand up against sacrifice and reclaim our destiny. We must speak with one voice, take our fate back from the hands of poorly informed decision makers and from big oil and just say no!”
Opponents Of Crude Oil Terminals Rally In Grays Harbor County
By BELLAMY PAILTHORP • JUL 8, 2016
Opponents of plans to ship crude oil by rail and barge through Grays Harbor in Southwest Washington will rally in Hoquiam on Friday. They say the risks far outweigh the benefits of the proposal.
The rally was organized by the Quinault Indian Nation and will begin on the water with a flotilla of traditional tribal canoes as well as kayaks and fishing vessels.
The tribe’s president, Fawn Sharp, says they’ll also march to Hoquiam’s City Hall and host an open mic to voice their opposition for bringing oil trains to the area.
“The trains run through our ancestral territory to Grays Harbor and a good portion of the rail tracks are right along the Chehalis River,” she said.
She says the river and the harbor are areas where the Quinault exercise their treaty fishing rights and adding oil cars onto the trains and barges there is too risky.
“If there were either an explosion or an oil spill, that could wipe out not only our fishing industry, but the non-Indian, non-treaty fishing industry,” Sharp said, adding “any damage to that resource would not only be for this generation, but we believe it could take a good 70-100 years to restore what could potentially be lost.”
That’s why their protest will include non-tribal commercial fishermen as well as activists from all over the state. They’re calling on the city of Hoquiam to deny permits for two potential oil terminals.
Among the speakers at the rally will be Larry Thevik, the vice president of the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association. He says Grays Harbor is a delicate ecosystem that would be devastated by a spill.
“All of the activities that depend on that healthy estuary would be in jeopardy. But I’m also concerned, as is evidenced by the recent train derailment in Mosier, for the public safety of our citizens and the communities through which these trains would roll,” Thevik said. “If we didn’t have the terminals, we wouldn’t have the trains.”
He says he lost a season to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and was also here in 1988 when the Nestucca barge spilled bunker oil near Grays Harbor – and the effects were devastating.
Backers of the proposals say they’re cooperating with the Washington State Department of Ecology and the city of Hoquiam and would build them with the highest commitment to safety. And they argue expansions for crude oil transport would provide new jobs and tax revenue for Grays Harbor.
“We’re confident that we can build this project in a way that protects our neighbors and the environment we all value,” said David Richey, a spokesman for Westway Grays Harbor, in an emailed statement.
Washington agency cites wildland fire risk to halt oil train plans
City of Vancouver also opposes oil transfer terminal
By Phuong Le, The Associated Press, June 30, 2016
SEATTLE — A Washington state agency in charge of protecting millions of acres of state land from wildfires is opposing a proposal to build an oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, citing risks of blazes from increased train traffic and other concerns.
The Department of Natural Resources urged a state energy panel to recommend that the project be rejected, according to a brief filed ahead of hearings that begin Monday.
The city of Vancouver also filed a brief stating its opposition to the project.
The Department of Natural Resources said that based on the evidence, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council cannot meet its obligations to assure the public that there are adequate safeguards and that the project will have minimal environmental impacts.
The council, which oversees the siting and permitting of large energy projects, will make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say.
Beginning Monday, the panel will hear testimony from numerous witnesses during trial-like proceedings lasting several weeks.
“We’re all very concerned about the lack of safety and the probability that bad things will happen around derailments or other accidents,” Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said in an interview Wednesday. “We’re trying to persuade both (the energy council) and the governor that this is not a wise move. It’s not safe.”
In its filing, the Department of Natural Resources said the project would “create an increased risk of wildfire ignition along every mile of track used, both from heat and sparks creased by increased daily rail traffic and from catastrophic accidents.”
It says state firefighting forces aren’t equipped to handle those risks.
Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., operating as Vancouver Energy, want to build a rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal along the Columbia River that can handle an average of 360,000 barrels of crude a day. The facility would receive an average of four crude oil trains a day. The oil would temporarily be stored on site and then loaded onto marine vessels for transport to refineries on the West Coast.
Vancouver Energy says the project can be done safely and will provide jobs and tax revenue as well as reduce dependency on foreign oil.
“We live in the community. We work in the community. We play in the community, so it’s obviously important to us to make sure this is done safely and in an environmentally safe way,” Jared Larrabee, general manager for Vancouver Energy, said in an interview last week.
Tribal, environmental and other groups have intervened in the proceedings to oppose the project. They plan to raise concerns about the risk of train derailments, the potential for a catastrophic oil spill into the Columbia River, public health issues, tribal fishing access and toxic pollution.