While Tesoro’s “Vancouver Energy” proposal
is by far the biggest of the Northwest oil-by-rail projects, numerous smaller oil terminals have been proposed or are already operating. Even leaving the Tesoro proposal out of the equation, if all of these projects were to come online the Columbia River Gorge would see an additional 30 mile-long trains each week, the explosive cargo of Bakken crude posing a disastrous threat to the Columbia River and communities along the rail route.
Five terminal proposals have been defeated, but several more remain. (Map created by Sightline Institute)
Proposed Projects - Updates
Rejected: The NuStar terminal in Vancouver, WA was granted a permit to handle ethanol in March 2017, with the condition that an application to handle crude oil was officially dropped.
Grays Harbor, WA
There were three terminals proposed for development or expansion near Hoquiam, WA.
- Defeated: The Westway terminal went through its DEIS process and hearing last fall, the same time as Imperium. The comment period closed on Nov. 30, 2015. In early 2017 the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the Ocean Resources Management Act (ORMA) applied to this project, and that its strict permitting requirements apply to crude oil shipping terminals. This ruling will effectively block a proposed oil terminal in Hoquiam.
- Withdrawn: The Grays Harbor Rail terminal never progressed beyond the scoping stage. U.S. Development Group, the backers of the proposal, terminated the lease with the Port of Grays Harbor on November 11, 2015. In August 2017, Port officials gave an annual report to the Ocean Shores City Council and the issue of shipping crude oil by rail and sea was “off the table” for the first time in four years.
- Withdrawn: The Imperium terminal was bought by Renewable Energy Group (REG) last summer. REG has announced it will no longer be pursuing permits to handle crude oil at the facility, instead to only continue handling biodiesel, petroleum diesel, vegetable oil and methanol, but there is nothing yet that legally binds this commitment. However, in August 2017, Port officials gave an annual report to the Ocean Shores City Council and the issue of shipping crude oil by rail and sea was “off the table” for the first time in four years.
Port Westward, OR
Withdrawn: In January, Global Partners laid off eight percent of its work force and aims to handle only ethanol, not crude, at its rail terminal in Oregon in response to the nearly 70 percent plunge in oil prices since mid-2014. Before January, the terminal had received all necessary regulatory approval and was exporting crude oil. Global Partners accomplished this by manipulating loopholes in the regulatory system to get adjustments for an existing biofuel facility instead of going through a more in-depth and full permit review with public input that a new facility would have required. They also acquired approval and funding to expand the dock near their facility to increase their export capabilities and receive larger ships. That project is slated to be finished in the third quarter this year. Global Partners could elect to again handle crude oil should market conditions improve.
Rejected: Waterside Energy (also called Riverside Refining), which is led by the same people who were behind the failed TransMessis Columbia Plateau biofuels plant in Odessa, WA, is seeking permits for a new oil refinery and propane terminal in Longview, WA. After being abandoned in 2014, the Odessa plant required more than $400,000 worth of environmental cleanup. The EPA estimates final cleanup costs will be around $580,000. There has not been a public hearing or comment period scheduled yet for the Waterside refinery proposal.
Shell’s refinery in Anacortes, WA. A proposal to add capacity to the facility that would have resulted in an additional 60,000 barrels of explosive Bakken crude oil each day was abandoned in October 2016. (photographer: Walter Siegmund/Wikipedia Commons)
All Proposed Oil by Rail Projects - by the Numbers
Vancouver, WAProject Name:
Vancouver Energy (Read details of project
360,000 barrels per day – 36 trains per week
22,000 barrels per day – 2.2 trains per week
Longview, WAProject Name:
30,000 barrels per day – 3 trains per week
Grays Harbor, WAProject Name:
Westway Terminal Company
49,000 barrels per day – 5 trains per week
Grays Harbor Rail terminal
U.S. Development Group
45,000 barrels per day – 4.5 trains per week
Anacortes, WAProject Name:
Shell Puget Sound Refinery (add-on to existing facility)
Additional 60,000 barrels per day – 6 trains per week
50,000 barrels per day – 5 trains per week
Ferndale, WAProject Name:
70,000 barrels per day – 7 trains per week
Philips 66 Refinery
35,000 barrels per day – 3.5 trains per week
Tacoma, WAProject Name:
US Oil & Refining
40,000 barrels per day – 4 trains per week
40.000 barrels per day – 4 trains per week
Total capacity of all oil by rail projects:
Over 800,000 barrels per day, over 74 trains per week.
ResourcesStand Up to Oil coalition, of which Friends is a member
Sightline Institute articles about crude oil transport
Sightline Institute’s Report “The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails”
Oil Check – an interactive map of all Northwest opposition to oil trains.
Oil Train Blast Zone – an interactive map from Forest Ethics showing how close you live to an oil train blast or evacuation zone.
Friends’ conservation work is driven by members, volunteers, and activists. There are many ways to join our community of Gorge enthusiasts. Here are some ways to get started:
Live in the Gorge? The Columbia Gorge Climate Action Network works to protect Gorge communities from fossil-fuel transport.
Get updates on public hearings, comment periods, events, and other ways you can make a difference.