Tomorrow (Dec 18) is the deadline for submitting comments on the Port of Vancouver’s proposal to accept a massive oil-by-rail project, the Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal. I learned and talked about this proposal back in Action 96, when I attended the panel discussion on oil trains in the Pacific Northwest at the University of Washington.
Oil shipped from the port would travel from North Dakota’s oil fields on trains a mile and a half long, through Spokane and the Tri-Cities, along the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area into Vancouver, and then be transferred onto ships for transport to refineries in California or Puget Sound. At the Port of Vancouver, oil-by-rail would bring in up to 360,000 barrels per day: about 40% of the Keystone XL’s proposed capacity. As I’ve discussed extensively before, these types of projects are of serious concern for several reasons: the risks of spill and accidents associated with oil-by-rail transport, the increase in delays and inconvenience to other transportation having to deal with increasing rail activity, and of course the facilitation of exporting massive amounts of fossil fuels to be combusted and add to climate change. All of these costs are born by our country, and the Pacific Northwest in particular, with some limited economic benefits to our local economies but most of the profit to the oil companies, and zero added to our domestic energy security. Facilitating fossil fuel export is 180 degrees from where the Northwest should be going to lead us towards a sustainable energy framework and reduce the risks of climate change.
Right now, the proposal is in the hands of the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), which must evaluate the project in an Environmental Impact Statement in which they will make a recommendation on the project to Governor Inslee. The public comment period to provide our feedback to EFSEC closes tomorrow, so I just wrote a letter to EFSEC manager Stephen Posner asking that the organization do a thorough and complete accounting of the risks and costs associated with the proposed terminal in their EIS. Washington Environmental Council has made commenting on this issue very easy: you can go here to read and personalize a form letter to Mr. Posner; please take a moment to add your voice during the comment period!