Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has rejected a permit to build the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver.
Inslee sided with the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which unanimously voted late last year to reject the project, citing significant and unavoidable risks.
“I found that the review by the Council was extremely thorough and comprehensive and was confident this was the right decision,” Inslee told OPB.
In a letter to EFSEC, Inslee wrote: “When weighing all of the factors considered against the need for and potential benefits of the facility at this location, I believe the record reflects substantial evidence that the project does not meet the broad public interest standard necessary for the Council to recommend site certification.”
Inslee also noted several concerns, including damage to the facility from a potential earthquake and increased risk of an oil spill or fiery explosion. He also noted that this was a long process, lasting well over four years, that has drawn a record amount of public testimony.
“There were thousands and thousands of citizens who lent their voices and their insight into this process,” said Inslee. “This was democracy in action and I believe it was consistent with our state’s laws and what we expect for our communities.”
Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of Tesoro and Savage, had proposed to send four additional oil trains carrying 360,000 barrels of oil through the Columbia River Gorge daily. From there, the oil would have been loaded onto ships bound for West Coast refineries.
Opponents of the terminal applauded Inslee’s decision to essentially end plans for a $210 million oil terminal on the Columbia River.
“I’m thrilled,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “It’s a huge victory for clean air, clean water and our climate.”
VandenHeuvel credits the passion of local residents and organizers who fueled a grassroots effort to stop the terminal project.
“This is a textbook example of people standing up for what they love and being able to influence government decisions,” VandenHeuvel said.
A couple dozen people gathered Monday evening outside Vancouver’s City Hall to celebrate the governor’s decision. Many brought signs thanking Inslee and condemning big oil and other fossil fuel industries.
“We fought, we walked, we knocked on doors,” said Fruit Valley resident Linda Garcia. “And our message was heard. It’s been a long five years and I’m glad I made it long enough to see this thing happen today.”
The governor’s long-awaited decision is the latest blow to the oil terminal project. Earlier this month, the Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners voted to end their lease with Vancouver Energy if the company did not have all necessary permits in hand by March 31.
Starting Monday, Vancouver Energy has 30 days to appeal the governor’s decision. The terminal is just the latest in a string of fossil fuel companies in recent years that have lost their bids to build in Washington state.
“It sends the message that we are open for clean energy but are not interested in doubling down on industries from the past,” said Eric de Place, program director with the sustainability think tank Sightline Institute.
“The region has been vocal about that for some time,” he said, stressing that all of the recent fossil fuel proposals have faced resistance from environmentalists and local communities.
“It’s pretty clear to the oil, gas and coal industry that we are not interested in doing business with them.”