Crude oil shipments poised to take over Northwest railways

  • Watch the mini-documentary on the controversial oil-by-rail boom by Vice News following Columbia Riverkeeper’s Community Organizer Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky as she tours the Port Westward oil terminal.
  • Watch our short video that puts the Northwest’s oil-by-rail issue in the national spotlight.

    oil train video screen shot-annie2

  • And, please sign our petition today asking Oregon’s and Washington’s Governors to do their part in protecting our communities by opposing proposed oil-by-rail projects. Huffington Post features our video


Photo by Paul K Anderson

Photo by Paul K Anderson


Of the Northwest’s proposed oil-by-rail projects, the largest is at the Port of Vancouver. In summer 2013, the Port approved a lease agreement with Tesoro Savage to ship up to a staggering 360,000 barrels of crude oil each day along the Columbia River. The proposed oil terminal would require at least four, mile-and-a-half long unit trains per day. For communities along the Columbia and rail line, the consequences of a project of this magnitude are staggering.

Riverkeeper and its allies are working to overturn the Port’s lease and hold the Port accountable for holding secret meetings with Tesoro and Savage:

  • Read Riverkeeper’s Motion for Summary Judgment and Reply Brief explaining how the Port illegally excluded the public from meetings about the oil lease. A court hearing on the Port’s Open Public Meetings Act violations will occur in Clark County Superior Court at 1:30 pm on July 24.
  • Read Riverkeeper’s Opening and Reply briefs to the Washington State Court of Appeals explaining how the the Port illegally leased public land for an oil terminal before an Environmental Impact Statement disclosed the oil terminal’s environmental and human health risks. Listen to the oral arguments in that case here.

Tesoro Savage now must get approval from Governor Inslee because the quantity of oil proposed is so large. The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) will make a recommendation to the Governor on the unprecedented project and, then, the Governor will make the final decision to deny or approve the terminal. Hundreds rally and attend October 29th hearing to ask EFSEC and Governor Inslee to reject the massive oil terminal proposed at Port of Vancouver

Learn more:

  • Riverkeeper’s fact sheet on the Tesoro Savage Project
  • Riverkeeper’s overview of the EFSEC process
  • Riverkeeper and partners challenge Port’s closed-door decision on oil lease
  • Riverkeeper and allies EFSEC scoping comments.  Thanks to the excellent legal team at Earthjustice for their work on this.



In 2012, Massachusetts-based oil company Global Partners LP began shipping crude oil from Port Westward near Clatskanie, Oregon. No public hearings or notifications occurred when the then Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery transitioned quietly and quickly from an ethanol facility into a crude oil terminal. Seemingly overnight, mile-long unit trains carrying explosive crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, began traveling through the Columbia River Gorge, Portland, and Columbia County to the shipping terminal at Port Westward. From Port Westward, the crude oil is loaded onto ocean-going barges and shipped through the sensitive Columbia River Estuary—the cradle of salmon habitat in the Columbia River Basin.

In 2013 and 2014 four unit trains of Bakken crude oil exploded in North America. On July 7, 2013, 47 people were killed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, when a unit train of crude oil, identical to those traveling to Port Westward, derailed and exploded. Additional derailments and explosions in Alabama, North Dakota and Virginia of Bakken crude oil trains have raised alarms at local, state and federal levels across the nation. The reality of crude oil train explosions prompted moratorium on new crude oil infrastructure in Albany, New York, where Global Partners operates a Bakken crude oil terminal and a resolution by the Seattle City Council opposing oil train transport through the city.

Watch Voices Against Oil Trains – a three minute video highlighting the threats of oil-by-rail in the Pacific Northwest.

A crude oil spill at Port Westward, or anywhere in the Columbia River Estuary, could devastate the Columbia’s natural and economic resources. Neighboring industries dependent on shipping would be put on hold until the cleanup is complete, farmers near the oil terminal risk crop contamination and rail communities are put at risk each time an explosive train passes through town.

Global’s oil terminal at Port Westward was approved without public involvement. In 2013, Global blatantly violated their permit with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and shipped 6 times more crude oil through their Port Westward terminal. On August 19, 2014 the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality approved a new air pollution permit allowing Global to massively expand their oil terminal. This disappointing and dangerous permit allows Global to expand to 36 times more their current permitted amount and bring 50 unit trains of explosive crude oil through the Northwest. Global is ill prepared for an oil spill at their Port Westward terminal and residents along the rail lines are put at risk each time a unit train of explosive crude oil passes.

Learn more:

Get Involved

Contact Dan Serres, Riverkeeper’s Conservation Director, at dan@columbiariverkeeper.org with any questions or comments related to any of Northwest oil-by-rail proposals OR if you’d like to get involved.