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
For Immediate Release
NEW INVESTIGATIVE REPORT DOCUMENTS NATION’S NEGLECTED RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE
Waterkeepers from across the Country Identify Significant Areas of Concern with 114 Railway Bridges along Known and Potential Routes of Explosive Oil Trains
Nov. 10, 2015 (Portland, OR and New York, NY) – Columbia Riverkeeper joined Waterkeeper Alliance, ForestEthics and a national network of Waterkeeper organizations today in releasing a new investigative report exploring the condition of our nation’s rail infrastructure. From July to September 2015, Waterkeepers from across the country documented the structural integrity of 250 railway bridges along known and potential routes of explosive oil trains, capturing the state of this often neglected infrastructure in their communities.
Columbia Riverkeeper volunteers took to the river in kayaks and boats to float under rail bridges for up-close
investigations, finding cracks, crumbling and eroding concrete, and exposed rebar. Nationwide, the Waterkeepers identified areas of concern with 114 bridges, nearly half of those observed. Photos and video footage of the bridges inspected show signs of significant stress and decay, such as rotted, cracked, or crumbling foundations, and loose or broken beams. Waterkeepers were also present when crude oil unit trains passed and observed flexing, slumping and vibrations that crumbled concrete.
This effort was initiated out of concern for the threat posed by the 5,000 percent increase in oil train traffic since 2008. Oil train traffic increases both the strain on rail infrastructure, as well as the likelihood of a rail bridge defect leading to an oil train disaster resulting in oil spills, fires and explosions. “The proposed oil terminal in Vancouver, WA would greatly increase oil trains along the Columbia River, and an oil spill anywhere along the Columbia would be disastrous,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper.
A review of safety standards for rail bridges revealed that the federal government cedes authority and oversight of inspections and repairs to railway bridge owners. Overly broad federal law, lax regulations, dangerously inadequate inspections and oversight, and a lack of authority compound the threat from oil trains. The 2008 federal law and subsequent DOT standards regulating safety of rail bridges leaves responsibility for determining load limits, safety inspections, and maintenance with rail bridge owners.
The groups are calling for immediate, decisive action by the federal government on this issue. “What the Waterkeepers have captured shines a light on the need for immediate, independent inspections of all rail bridges that carry explosive oil trains,” said Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “People deserve to know the state of this infrastructure and the risks posed by oil trains rolling through their communities.”
ForestEthics has calculated that oil trains directly threaten the life and safety of 25 million Americans living inside the blast zone, which is the one mile evacuation zone in the case of an oil train fire. The drinking water supplies for tens of millions more are also at risk. This report attempts to alert communities about this risk, and calls for nationwide action and reform of rail safety standards.
About Columbia Riverkeeper
Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean. Representing over 8,000 members and supporters, Columbia Riverkeeper works to restore a Columbia River where people can safely eat the fish they catch, and where children can swim without fear of toxic exposure. The organization is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement, uniting more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations worldwide. For more information go to columbiariverkeeper.org.