Port of Vancouver Proposal

Photo by Roy Luck

Photo by Roy Luck

After signaling its disinterest in exporting dirty coal overseas, the Port of Vancouver (POV) is poised to take on the shipment of another dirty fossil fuel – crude oil.

On July 23, 2013, the Port approved a lease agreement with Tesoro/Savage to ship up to a staggering 380,000 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.

The next step: Tesoro/Savage now must get approval from Governor Inslee because the quantity of oil proposed to be shipped 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.

On August 29, 2013, Tesoro/Savage submitted an application to EFSEC. To learn more, read Riverkeeper’s overview of the EFSEC process. EFSEC is a Washington State board comprised of a Chairman appointed by the Governor and representatives from five state agencies. For specific projects, the EFSEC decision makers change to include representatives from the particular counties, cities, or port districts where potential projects may be located, as well as additional state agencies that can opt-into the review of a new proposal.


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



Before approving the terminal, Governor Inslee must strongly consider the potential environmental, economic and public safety risks this oil-by-rail project would invite in to our communities, the state and the Pacific Northwest. Furthermore, the Governor should demand a disaster response plan from Tesoro/Savages before approving a massive crude oil terminal in the heart of Vancouver, a terminal that sits right on the Columbia River.

Why crude oil is a bad deal for Columbia River communities & beyond:

  • The Public Deserves Better. The public deserves the opportunity to learn about the project and give input before any decisions are made regarding leases or options for the proposed oil terminal. The Port and the City of Vancouver should engage with impacted businesses, neighborhoods and community members prior to reaching any agreement for a lease or lease option with the Tesoro/Savage.
    Photo from Transportation Safety Board of Canada

    Photo from Transportation Safety Board of Canada

  • Oil Spill Risk Skyrockets. The terminal would increase rail traffic and oil spill risks through the Columbia River Gorge and the City of Vancouver. Oil train disasters and spills, like the recent and horrific tragedy in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, can cause dramatic harm to fish habitat and water bodies as well as nearby neighborhoods and businesses along the proposed rail route.
  • The Heavy Toll of Rail Traffic. The terminal would require at least four full unit trains and four empty unit trains of oil each day to ship 360,000 barrels of oil on a daily basis. These long, heavy trains would exacerbate traffic delays in communities along the rail lines in Washington, such as Washougal, Spokane, and Vancouver. The eight oil unit trains could come in addition to proposed coal unit trains – over a dozen of them – destined for Longview and Bellingham.
  • Impacts Near & Far. The proposed oil terminal is initially intended to ship shale oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana to West Coast refineries. Oil companies extract Bakken oil through the process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), a notoriously dirty method of producing fossil fuels that has polluted aquifers and damaged agricultural lands.
  • Paving the Way for Tar Sands Export. In the future, the proposed oil terminal could be used to ship Canadian tar sands oil to overseas markets, much like the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet.
  • Dirty Energy or Clean Energy Future? The proposed oil terminal will increase access to and consumption of dirty oil. At 360,000 barrels of oil per day, the terminal will ship over 131 million barrels of crude oil per year. The combustion of this oil, alone (not counting the energy cost of producing the oil) will release millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere each year. The community of Vancouver can do better than becoming a trafficker of dirty fossil fuels.
  • Too Many Unanswered Questions. How will the City of Vancouver and the Port of Vancouver evaluate the safety and potential spill risks involved with the massive oil terminal? Having spent enormous time, money, and effort in cleaning up Alcoa’s old aluminum site, does it really make sense to commit the area to another dirty industry?



Contact Dan Serres, Riverkeeper’s Conservation Director, at dan@columbiariverkeeper.org with any questions or comments related to the Port of Vancouver proposal OR if you’d like to get involved.