Tesoro’s Vancouver Energy Oil Terminal

Tesoro Savage's proposal, located on the Columbia River in Vancouver, would be the largest oil terminal in the country

Tesoro’s Vancouver Energy Oil Terminal
Sited at the Port of Vancouver on the Columbia River, Tesoro's Vancouver Energy Project would haul up to 15 million gallons of explosive Bakken oil per day from trains traveling through the Columbia River Gorge. (photographer: Bergman Photographic Services)

The Tesoro Savage oil terminal would result in four additional oil trains, each a mile-and-a-half long and carrying millions of gallons of explosive Bakken crude, rolling through the Columbia Gorge every day.

Project Update - December 2017

On Nov. 28, 2017, the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) unanimously recommended denial of the Tesoro Savage oil terminal in Vancouver, WA. The final decision falls to Governor Jay Inslee, and community leaders from around the region are calling on Governor Inslee to deny the proposal swiftly, ending a four-year saga over the massive, 360,000-barrel-per day oil train terminal. A final written recommendation was issued on Dec. 19; once finalized later in the month, it triggers a 60-day deadline for Gov. Inslee to issue his decision.

Project Update - May 2016

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) public review period for the Tesoro Savage oil terminal proposal ended in late January. A record 289,000-plus comments were submitted to the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), with the overwhelming majority opposing the project. Approximately 2,000 people attended three public hearings (two in Clark County, WA, one in Spokane), also with a large majority in opposition. Next, EFSEC will hold a month-long hearing from June 27 to July 29, 2016 where it will consider evidence and legal arguments from the applicants and other parties, including Friends of the Columbia Gorge and its many allies opposed to the project. Sometime in 2017, EFSEC will issue a final EIS along with a recommendation to the Washington Governor to either approve or deny the project. Read the final adjudication brief to EFSEC filed by Friends and its allies.

Project Background

In 2013, Tesoro and Savage companies entered into a lease agreement with the Port of Vancouver to construct a massive oil-by-rail terminal on the Columbia River waterfront in Vancouver. Tesoro Savage's Vancouver Energy proposal  represents the most prominent of the numerous crude oil-by-rail terminal plans in the Northwest. In fact, it would be the largest oil terminal in North America. If approved by Governor Jay Inslee, the Vancouver Energy terminal would receive 360,000 barrels of oil per day carried on BNSF Railway tracks through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. This translates to four additional oil trains, each a mile-and-a-half long and carrying millions of gallons of Bakken crude, rolling through the Gorge every day. At the terminal, the oil would be transloaded to storage tanks, then to ocean-going oil tankers for shipping down the Columbia River and across the dangerous Columbia Bar.

Tesoro has a documented record of violating pollution laws, disregarding workers' safety, oil spills, and secrecy. With its record as a bad corporate citizen, Tesoro is the last company that that we should trust with the safety of our communities and the Columbia River.

Citizens, union workers, firefighters and businesses in Vancouver and all along the rail shipping route have spoken out against the terminal. Several Native American tribes actively oppose the project.  In response to these environmental, public safety, and quality of life concerns, the Vancouver city council adopted a resolution in June 2014 opposing the massive terminal. Over 20 other cities and counties have since adopted resolutions opposing oil-by-rail through their communities, including the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and the City of Hood River. In 2014, the Columbia River Gorge Commission adopted a resolution opposing increases in fossil fuel trains through the Columbia River Gorge and sent letters to the Governors of Oregon and Washington expressing concerns over the impacts of fossil fuel terminals in the Gorge and its communities.

Regulatory Process and Public Opposition

The Washington Energy Facility Siting and Evaluation Council (EFSEC), is responsible for reviewing applications for oil terminals involving storage of 50,000 barrels of oil or more. EFSEC then recommends that Washington's Governor either approve or deny the project. The Governor has final decision-making authority. Appeals of the decision can be fast-tracked to review by the Washington state Supreme Court.

The EFSEC required preparation of an environmental impact statement for Tesoro Savage's proposed terminal. In March 2014, after receiving a record number of public comments, EFSEC determined the scope of its environmental review would include robust analyses of alternatives, transportation impacts of shipping coal throughout the state, out-of-state transportation impacts, community safety, air and water quality, cumulative effects of the proposal along with other likely projects in Oregon and Washington, and greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of refined fossil fuels.

EFSEC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), issued in November 2015, stated that if built, the terminal could result in a derailment every two years and an oil spill from a derailment once every 12 years. The DEIS also indicated that most fire departments along the oil trains’ rail route are not prepared for a spill or fire that could accompany a derailment. Only one department reported that its firefighters are trained and equipped for such an incident.

This analysis is actually overly optimistic: A month after the DEIS was released, it was reported that three of the four authors hired to write the analysis are former executives of BNSF Railway, and that the DEIS “vastly understated” the worst-case scenario for a catastrophic oil spill.  

The 60-day public comment period on the DEIS for Tesoro Savage’s terminal resulted in a record-shattering 290,000 comments, almost all of which stated opposition to the project. Over 2,000 people showed up to 3 hearings on the DEIS that month.

(Photo by Joe Urmos: An oil train travels westbound between the Columbia River
and Washington State Route 14.)



Stand Up to Oil coalition, of which Friends is a member
Sightline Institute articles about crude oil transport


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