Crude Oil Terminal’s Oil Spill Plan Lacks Adequate Protection and Response

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:

Full comments by NEDC are available here:

The proposed Oil Spill Contingency Plan is available here:




DEQ not enforcing safety laws, oil dock critics say

The Daily News. April 4, 2014.

Unpermitted Oil Terminal Seeks DEQ Approval

 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.

Photo by Trip Jennings

Photo by Trip Jennings

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.

Click here for an in-depth report from The Oregonian





Oil train terminal near Clatskanie violated state law by growing without required permit, DEQ says

The Oregonian. March 3, 2014.

Riverkeeper and Allies Team Up to Tell DEQ to Reject Oregon LNG Air and Water Permits

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. 

Photo by Laurie Caplan

Photo by Laurie Caplan

Oregon LNG’s Proposed Pollution Permits
















People’s Hearing Preferred Over DEQ’s Narrow Scope on Coal Export

jasmine and dan peoples hearingAs 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.

DEQ can protect Oregon from coal export and ask them to do it today! The comment period for the first permits for coal export ends August 12, 2013.

coal export hearingThroughout the day and into the People’s Hearing, photo petitions opposing coal export were posted to Oregon Governor Kitzhaber’s Twitter account and phone calls were made to his citizen hotline.

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!

Send DEQ your public comment about the Morrow Pacific project today.


peoples hearing 
















DEQ: Protect Oregon from Dirty Coal Export!

terminalThe Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is recklessly moving towards permitting the first coal export terminal in the Northwest at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon.

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.



(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 5:30PMplease wear red to the rally!


Click here for Riverkeeper’s suggested talking points & questions for DEQ


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.


Read more about this bad move that could make Oregon the first state to break ground for coal export.







DEQ to hear from public on coal exports Tuesday

Hermiston Herald. December 1, 2012.

Judge calls runoff standards inadequate

The Seattle Times

Case Closed: After Mosier, Washington should reject Tesoro oil terminal in Vancouver

On June 27, 2016, over 200 gathered in Vancouver, for Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to begin its adjudication process for the huge proposed Tesoro Savage oil train terminal.

On June 27, 2016, over 200 gathered in Vancouver, for Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to begin its adjudication process for the huge proposed Tesoro Savage oil train terminal.

By Dan Serres, Conservation Director

In mid-June, an impressive array of cities, agencies, tribes, and other parties joined Riverkeeper and our partners in submitting emphatic testimony urging Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to reject Tesoro and Savage companies’ application for the largest oil-by-rail terminal in North America. Taken together, the opening arguments submitted by over a dozen groups should persuade both EFSEC and Governor Inslee to deny the Vancouver Energy proposal, which would bring four or more trains each day into Vancouver – trains like the one that derailed, spilled oil, and burned into the night in Mosier on June 3, 2016.

Citing public safety concerns, spill risks, and the disturbing oil train fire in Mosier, Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) called for denial of the Tesoro project:
“Because of the potential for tremendous catastrophic loss associated with shipment of crude-by-rail, and the difficulty in adequately assessing the frequency at which disasters will occur, EFSEC simply cannot provide adequate assurance in a draft site certification agreement that the safeguards associated with the Proposal are ‘technically sufficient for [public] welfare and protection’ or ensure ‘that the location and operation of such facilities will produce minimal adverse effects on the environment’ as required…DNR respectfully submits that the evidence as whole compels the conclusion that the application for site certification for the Proposal should be denied.”

And the Washington Attorney General’s Counsel for the Environment offered this blunt assessment of the “significant and unprecedented” impacts of the Vancouver Energy oil train terminal:
“Human error piloting a vessel in the Columbia River or one broken bolt on a track could lead to a significant environmental and public safety disaster.”

With the town of Mosier and the region still grappling with Union Pacific’s recent oil train derailment, fire, and spill, EFSEC should heed the testimony from Washington DNR and its Counsel for the Environment and use its earliest opportunity to recommend denial of Vancouver Energy.  Throughout this month, the Cities of Vancouver and Spokane, along with tribal nations, Riverkeeper, and our partners (represented by Earthjustice) will be offering detailed evidence to support the case against Vancouver Energy. You can read more about the arguments against Tesoro’s oil terminal and the adjudication process here.

City of Vancouver Poised to Take Action:
As EFSEC continues its evaluation of the proposed oil terminal in a month-long, trial-like hearing, the residents of Vancouver and its City Council aren’t waiting idly without taking action.  On July 18, the City of Vancouver will hold a public hearing and likely vote on a new proposed ordinance that would prohibit crude-by-rail facilities in Vancouver.  Please mark your calendar and join us Monday, July 18!

The City of Vancouver is being proactive in protecting Vancouver’s residents, businesses, schools, and visitors from the risk and pollution associated with bulk crude oil storage and handling. City staff and Vancouver’s Planning Commission have recommended that the City Council prohibit bulk crude oil storage, handling, and refining in the City’s industrial zones.  The move would make Vancouver’s moratorium on new oil facilities permanent and binding, while also sending a strong message to Governor Inslee that Vancouver has better plans for its waterfront than a polluting, dangerous oil-by-rail terminal.

Plans are still in the works for a march to City Hall in support of the proposed ordinance, so please email if you plan to attend and want more information.