Idaho to Inslee: No Vancouver Oil Terminal!

The summer and fall of 2017 brought the devastating storms, floods, wildfires, and smoke that fossil-fueled climate change is increasingly inflicting on communities throughout the world.  On any day before February 17, the four-state, Northwest resistance to the Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal expects a decision by Washington Governor Jay Inslee on this proposed, environmental and public health disaster.  The facility at the Port of Vancouver, Washington, would transfer up to 360,000 barrels of crude oil per day from five additional, daily, oil trains to storage tanks and marine ships, handling oil quantities comparable to 42 percent of proposed, Keystone XL pipeline capacity.  Consequently, the terminal would bring ten fully and residually loaded, mile-long, explosive oil trains each day through Sandpoint, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington, threatening regional, rail-line communities and critical water bodies, like Lake Pend Oreille, with possible oil train derailments, spills, and fires.  This project would also sharply increase oil train, barge, and ship traffic along the Columbia River, risking oil spills that could kill large numbers of already dwindling salmon populations.

On Thursday afternoon, January 18, 350 Spokane and The Lands Council co-hosted a public rally and press conference with speakers, at the Saranac/Community Building in Spokane, to urge Governor Inslee to deny state approval of the Tesoro Savage oil terminal in Vancouver, and to stand in solidarity with people across the Northwest opposed to the facility [1].  Several, west-side Washington groups – Stand Up to Oil, 350 Seattle, Columbia Riverkeeper, Earth Ministry, Sierra Club Washington State Chapter, Washington Environmental Council, and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility – are also co-sponsoring a rally, media conference, and speakers at the King Street Station in Seattle, Washington, on Thursday, January 25 [2].  They plan to thank Governor Inslee in advance for rejecting North America’s largest, oil train terminal and all other fossil fuel infrastructure and transportation projects in Washington, including fracked gas and petrochemical proposals.

In north Idaho and western Montana in 2017, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), Montana Rail Link (MRL), and Union Pacific Railroad have jeopardized regional residents with seven derailments and accidents and two deaths [3].  During summer and fall 2017, BNSF double-tracked much of its north Idaho corridor, and drilled two pile load tests for a second, planned, rail bridge parallel to the almost mile-long span carrying coal and oil trains over the regional, Lake Pend Oreille water source.  Meanwhile, BNSF and MRL moved volatile, Bakken crude oil trains, like the one that wrecked and ignited in Mosier, Oregon, in June 2016, through an eventually combusted, coal train spill along and into the upstream Clark Fork River, neglected for clean-up during six weeks of an extraordinarily smoky, wildfire season in the surrounding watershed.

With plenty of momentum in our favor, concerned, interior Northwest citizens have been peacefully protesting the Tesoro Savage, pipeline-on-wheels terminal since its first, public scoping hearing in Spokane, on December 11, 2013 [4].  At 10 am on Sundays, January 28 and February 4 and 11, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and grassroots allies are providing some of the last opportunities for north Idahoans to together express our ongoing resistance to the largest, crude oil-by-rail terminal in North America.  Please wear red to symbolize your opposition to fossil fuels, bring your friends, family, and distantly visible signs and banners, and gather at the City Beach Park pavilion in Sandpoint, to help stop this Earth and climate polluting, dirty energy infrastructure.  WIRT will send photos of the convergences near the BNSF rail bridge, along with letters to Governor Inslee, encouraging him to reject the Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal.  See and share the description and links about recent issue developments, and contact us with your questions and ideas and for further information.

Recent Issue Background

Check the WIRT facebook page for ongoing, current updates.

On August 29, 2013, Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) and Savage corporations, partnering as Tesoro Savage Petroleum LLC, submitted their application to build and operate the largest, oil-by-rail terminal in North America, at the Port of Vancouver, Washington [5].  As partially summarized in a timeline of this fossil fuel infrastructure saga, compiled by the Stand Up to Oil coalition opposed to the facility, the project approval process has met resistance from government agencies and the public throughout the Northwest [6].

After its November 21, 2017, meeting, the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) issued the final environmental impact statement (final EIS) for the proposed, Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal, which this lead, state agency prepared in accordance with the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) [7].

The purpose of the final EIS is to evaluate the potential impacts of constructing and operating the proposed facility.  The final EIS evaluates impacts from construction, on-site operations, and off-site rail and vessel transportation, including a cumulative environmental impact analysis.  In addition to the proposed facility, the final EIS evaluates a no-action alternative. [5]

During their November 21 discussion, EFSEC staff and members identified multiple, significant, not fully mitigatable, public, environmental, and climate health and safety impacts, such as potential, seismic risks to the terminal site, harm to endangered salmon, increased oil train traffic and accidents, transportation fatalities, injuries, and disruptions, emergency response delays, and effects on low-income and minority communities [8].  The final EIS also acknowledges that a large, oil train fire or spill would have significant impacts that cannot be mitigated.

On November 28, 2017, EFSEC held a landmark, public meeting and livestreamed broadcast, and numerous groups hosted a rally, at the Washington Capitol in Olympia, too far for inland Northwesterners to attend [9, 10].  As documented in a coalition media release and regional news articles, the council unanimously voted and announced its final recommendation to Governor Jay Inslee, to reject the Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal [11].

At its Tuesday, December 19, hearing, EFSEC finalized its report and unanimous recommendation to Governor Inslee of disapproval of the Tesoro Savage oil train terminal, storage, and marine transfer facility, as stated in its public notice and media release and the Vancouver, Washington, newspaper [5, 12].

Today, EFSEC transmitted the recommendation report and adjudicative order regarding the Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal project to the Governor.  All parties to the adjudication were served and/or provided access to pertinent recommendation documents on EFSEC’s website… [5]

While allies review hundreds of pages of associated documents, no stakeholders have asked EFSEC for reconsideration of its recommendation.  Governor Inslee now has 60 days, until February 17, 2018, to issue a final decision on the project.  He must accept, deny, accept with stipulations, or send the EFSEC recommendation back to the council.  Congratulations and thanks to everyone who has worked so diligently for this historic outcome!

The Vancouver terminal opposition community supported their campaigns and elected two of the three Port of Vancouver commissioners, Eric LaBrant and Don Orange, who ran on anti-terminal platforms in 2015 and 2017, signaling local, political frustration with port accommodation of the Vancouver Energy lease [13].  Among an overflow crowd of citizens testifying in support of the resulting, January 9 decision, the Port of Vancouver Commission voted unanimously during their first meeting of 2018, to cancel Tesoro Savage’s lease for the still unbuilt, largest, bomb-train terminal in North America [14].  Unless the companies receive all necessary permits and approval by March 31, 2018, their port lease will expire.

In response, Vancouver organizer Don Steinke said, “Since 2013, we have urged the port to protect clean air, clean water, and our children’s future.  This is why the community elected Eric LaBrant and Don Orange to the port commission.  This is the right decision for the community and the port.” [14]

In an opinion piece entitled A Victory for Civic Activism, the editorial board of The Columbian newspaper of Vancouver, Washington, commends,

Those who spoke out against the proposal, who left hundreds of thousands of comments on forums seeking public input, who attended commission meetings in droves, who attended regulatory council meetings in matching red shirts, who wrote letters to The Columbian and posted comments on, who campaigned and voted for Eric LaBrant…[and] Don Orange, and who left an indelible impression that a majority of people in the region stood together in opposition to the terminal. [15]

With gratitude for your ongoing, passionate participation in climate activism for ecological justice and a healthy, sustainable bioregion!

[1] Keep Oil in the Soil Rally, 350 Spokane and The Lands Council

[2] Keep the Oil in the Soil! Stop the Nation’s Largest Oil Terminal, Stand Up to Oil, 350 Seattle, Columbia Riverkeeper, Earth Ministry, Sierra Club Washington State Chapter, Washington Environmental Council, and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility

[3] Fifth Anniversary Coal Train Protests, November 8, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[4] Vancouver Crude Oil Terminal Hearing and Comments, November 18, 2013 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[5] Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Project, Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council

[6] Tesoro Savage EFSEC Process Timeline, Stand Up to Oil

[7] Environmental Review Released on Largest Oil Train Terminal Proposal in Nation, November 21, 2017 Stand Up to Oil

[8] On November 28, 2017…, November 21, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[9] Keep the Oil in the Soil! Stop the Vancouver Oil Terminal! Stand Up to Oil, 350PDX, Climate Solutions, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Oregon and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club Washington State Chapter, and Washington Environmental Council

[10] The landmark, EFSEC meeting and public rally…, November 24, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[11] Thanks to everyone who has worked toward this outcome…, November 28, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[12] EFSEC Sends Official Recommendation on Oil Terminal to Inslee, December 19, 2017 The Columbian

[13] Don Orange Wins Vancouver Port Race in Referendum on Oil Terminal, November 7, 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

[14] Port of Vancouver Votes to Cancel Oil Terminal Lease, January 9, 2018 Stand Up to Oil

[15] In Our View: A Victory for Civic Activism, January 11, 2018 The Columbian

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