Crude oil shipments poised to take over Northwest railways
Oil companies want to ship massive quantities of crude oil to Oregon and Washington ports and refineries. Read Sightline Institute’s The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails for a comprehensive, region-wide review of all the oil-by-rail projects planned or currently operating in the Northwest.
Watch our short video that puts the Northwest’s oil-by-rail issue in the national spotlight. 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.
Watch a September 5, 2013 investigative report from NBC News on how unsafe the crude oil trains are that roll through our communities everyday: Danger on the tracks: Unsafe rail cars carry oil through US towns
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.
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
- 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 three 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 and North Dakota 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.
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. Now, their aim is to ship more the 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.
Contact Dan Serres, Riverkeeper’s Conservation Director, at email@example.com with any questions or comments related to any of Northwest oil-by-rail proposals OR if you’d like to get involved.