Blog post by Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, Riverkeeper’s Community Organizer—
April 14, 2014. Oregon’s only crude oil terminal is taking more heat for their dangerous crude oil terminal on the Columbia River. Riverkeeper and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC), as well as farmers who make a living near the oil terminal, agree that the oil company’s plan, currently under review by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), doesn’t go far enough to protect the Columbia River or local water supplies from an oil spill.
Both Riverkeeper and NEDC submitted comments to DEQ about the oil spill plan and criticized the plan’s lack of financial assurances for spill response, and the lack of funding for local emergency responders who are underequipped to deal with a crude oil fire, explosion or spill.
“Recent accidents prove that response time is essential to limiting damage from an oil spill,” stated Marla Nelson, Legal Fellow for NEDC. “This plan fails to demonstrate that Global is taking the risk of an oil spill seriously.”
Farmers near the new crude oil terminal also stand to lose if oil spills into local waterways. Mike Seely, owner of a mint farm near the crude oil terminal, casts a worried eye towards his new neighbor. “I couldn’t harvest a marketable mint crop, maybe for years, if there was a major oil spill that impacted our irrigation water,” said Seely.
Global Partners LP has a history of flaunting environmental and safety regulations. In March, Oregon DEQ fined the Port Westward crude oil terminal for illegally shipping 250 million gallons of crude in 2013, a violation of its air pollution permit. Global Partners LP applied for a new air emission permit with DEQ that would allow it to expand oil shipment to 1.8 billion gallons annually, or 50 full trains a month. The comment period for this application closes May 5, 2014. Submit your air emission permit comment here! Riverkeeper and NEDC plan to comment on that permit as well. The deadline for comments on the Oil Spill Contingency Plan is May 1, 2014.
Full comments by Riverkeeper are available here: http://columbiariverkeeper.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/2014.4.11-Columbia-Riverkeeper-Comments-on-Globals-Oil-Spill-Contingency-Plan.pdf
Full comments by NEDC are available here: http://law.lclark.edu/centers/northwest_environmental_defense_center/projects/oil-transport-in-the-pacific-northwest/
The proposed Oil Spill Contingency Plan is available here: http://www.oregon.gov/deq/LQ/Pages/Columbia/spillplan.aspx
The Daily News. April 4, 2014.
Blog post by Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, Riverkeeper’s Community Organizer—
March 21, 2014. The oil terminal along the Columbia River at Port Westward has been, and continues, operating outside the law by moving more explosive Bakken crude oil than their current air pollution permit allows. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the crude oil company Global Partners (aka “the Columbia Pacific Biorefinery”) violated air quality laws by moving nearly six times more crude oil than their permit allows.
Global Partners is now applying for a new permit with DEQ to bring 1.8 billion gallons of oil annually through Columbia County, enough to fill 50 trains per month. Submit a comment about Global’s attempt to increase crude oil train traffic. DEQ will be accepting comments through 5:00PM on May 5.
Recent oil spills and train explosions pose serious threats to rail communities. Last year, 47 people were killed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, when a unit train of crude oil, identical to those traveling to Port Westward, from the Bakken region derailed and exploded. Additional derailments and explosions in Alabama and North Dakota of Bakken crude oil trains have raised alarms at local, state and federal levels across the nation, including a moratorium on new crude oil infrastructure in Albany, New York, where Global Partners operates a Bakken crude oil terminal.
The Oregonian. March 3, 2014.
On Tuesday, November 12th, over 80 people from Astoria, Warrenton, Forest Grove, Yamhill, and Washington state urged Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to use its authority to reject the Oregon LNG project. We sent a clear message to DEQ: Oregonians and Washingtonians oppose Oregon LNG and the pollution it would create. Attendees asked pointed questions about how DEQ can use its authority to protect water quality, salmon habitat, and air quality in its review of the proposed Oregon LNG export terminal. The hearing occurred only weeks after Clatsop County Commissioners voted unanimously to reject the Oregon LNG pipeline. Oregon LNG cannot build its proposed LNG export terminal without air and water pollution permits and DEQ has the authority to deny them.
Check out Riverkeeper’s letter to DEQ on Oregon LNG’s proposed water pollution permit.
Oregon LNG’s Proposed Pollution Permits
- Stormwater Pollution Permit: This permit would authorize Oregon LNG to discharge dirty stormwater to the Columbia and Skipanon Rivers while building the terminal.
- Process Wastewater Permit: This permit would allow Oregon LNG to discharge millions of gallons of polluted water and stormwater every day of the year. This includes hot water, ammonia, copper and other toxic pollutants.
- Air Pollution Permit: This permit would give the green light for air pollution from compressors, vaporizers, ships, harbor tugs, support vehicles, gas-turbines, construction dust and a number of other sources. LNG tankers and the security vessels that accompany them are required to run their engines during the entire cargo loading cycle, spewing exhaust and air.
As the marathon 12 hour hearing on Australian-owned Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific coal export project came to a close on July 9th, hundreds of citizens converged outside the Oregon Convention Center in Portland for a People’s Hearing and rally. That day, inside the Convention Center, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) provided two rooms for the public to testify. The room’s capacity was limited so only a handful of observers could enter and hear citizen testimony. Speaking slots were filled via online sign ups and a very small number of ‘walk-ins’ were accepted.
The resounding testimonial both inside the Convention Center and outside at the People’s Hearing was that DEQ has the power to fully study the impacts of the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project. Yet, DEQ is choosing to limit the scope of their review to just the Port of Morrow. This approach does not serve Oregonians. DEQ must fully analyze all impacts of this controversial coal export project and deny the permits.
The DEQ hearing in eastern Oregon regarding the Morrow Pacific project was also held on July 9th for a 12 hour duration in the town of Hermiston. This hearing drew project opponents from near and far. Residents of eastern Washington and Idaho traveled to Hermiston to inform DEQ about the broad impacts of the Morrow Pacific project. For these residents, the coal export project would bring up to five coal trains per day rumbling through their cities.
Tell DEQ to stop dirty coal – deny the permits!
DEQ has opened a public comment period on draft air quality permits for the controversial Morrow Pacific coal export project proposed by Ambre Energy. The comment period runs through August 12th.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
(1) Sign the Petition
Tell DEQ to use their authority to protect Oregon from dirty coal export by signing this petition.
(2) Attend a Public Hearing + Portland Rally
Public hearings will be held on July 9 from 8AM-8PM in both Portland and Hermiston, Oregon. Click here for details about the public hearings. And, DEQ is requiring those that want to testify at a hearing to register beforehand – REGISTER NOW!
There will be a rally in Portland outside the hearing at 5:30PM – please wear red to the rally!
Ambre Energy’s proposed Morrow Pacific coal export terminal would result in coal dust and diesel emissions that would likely exceed National Ambient Air Quality Standards and worsen pollution in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, where air quality is currently suffering from air pollution. The proposal would result in doubling barge traffic on the Columbia River, harming salmon, river recreation and navigation. Due to concerns over these likely impacts, local governments, tribes, federal agencies and elected officials, including Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio, have called for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement on the project.
Hermiston Herald. December 1, 2012.
The Seattle Times
Blog post by Dan Serres, Riverkeeper’s Conservation Director—
April 18, 2014. It’s not every day that you see Hanford workers, health professionals, Columbia River advocates, and state agencies calling on the U.S. Department of Energy (Energy) to redouble its efforts to clean up the Hanford nuclear site. This week, I was inspired by the public testimony offered in Portland and Hood River, where over 100 Oregonians and Washingtonians joined together to ask tough questions about how to improve the clean-up at the Hanford site.
Before each meeting, a few dozen participants stood in a circle and shared our thoughts about why Hanford matters to us. Holding banners and standing in the rain, we reinforced the reasons why Hanford cleanup is so important. Our Columbia River is destined to be fishable, drinkable, and swimmable, and Hanford poses a unique and severe threat to all of those goals. I was particularly touched by the thoughts shared by Hanford downwinders, people whose health was compromised by nuclear weapons production.
During the hearing itself, as I listened, there were some clear themes that connected testimony from a wide variety of perspectives. First, and foremost, participants highlighted the importance of safeguarding Hanford’s workforce during the complicated, difficult, and dangerous task of maintaining Hanford’s tank waste. In recent weeks, 26 workers sought medical attention after becoming ill from inhaling highly dangerous vapors originating from Hanford’s underground tanks of nuclear waste. Several workers attended the Hood River hearing and boldly argued for a better approach to worker safety as well a full accounting of the risks to the public from transporting Hanford’s waste. Their testimony received applause and support from the Hood River audience.
In Portland, Hanford activists, local physicians, and downwinders urged Energy to proceed more quickly with the construction of new double-shelled tanks. Energy and the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) acknowledged that many tanks have leaked in the past, and at least two are currently failing. Yet, the agencies sharply differ on how quickly one leaking double-shelled tank, AY-102, which holds come of the most hazardous radioactive waste in the world, should be emptied.
In response to audience questions, I appreciated the candid effort put forth by officials from the Ecology and Oregon Department of Energy in helping us understand the different approaches. Not surprisingly, I heard over and over from speakers at the meeting that Energy should heed Ecology’s concerns and move quickly to build new double-shelled tanks at Hanford.
Lastly, the agencies, themselves shared some of the challenges that they face in proceeding with the cleanup. Dennis Faulk, Matt McCormick, Jane Hedges, Kevin Smith and two representatives from Oregon’s Department of Energy engaged in a back-and-forth with audience members about how to ensure that Hanford can meet its cleanup goals. The agencies continue to struggle with inadequate funding to face some of Hanford’s biggest challenges. In particular, I appreciated hearing from audience members who urged agency officials to prioritize a thorough cleanup of the River Corridor and an aggressive funding approach for groundwater remediation.
In coming months, the agencies will be discussing key issues about how much waste will be left behind in soils and groundwater near the Columbia River, and how future uses of the Hanford site could be impacted by those decisions.
I left feeling very concerned about Hanford’s future impact on the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, which contains the best mainstem Chinook salmon spawning habitat in the entire Columbia River system. I also left both meetings feeling unconvinced that workers in the tank farms are receiving the protection they need to do their work safely.
Yet, I was deeply encouraged by the efforts of Theresa Labriola, Riverkeeper’s Hanford Organizer, and our partner organizations—Hanford Challenge, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Heart of America Northwest—as well as all of the attendees who took the time to speak their minds.
Our combined vigilance is the biggest asset we have to protect the Columbia River and its incredible salmon habitat.