One among hundreds of demonstrators, Maureen Hildreth, center, voices her opposition to the Vancouver Energy oil terminal at an anti-terminal rally Jan. 5 at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. The campaign Stand Up To Oil organized the rally, and others like it, to tap into the strong regional distaste for fossil fuel projects.

One among hundreds of demonstrators, Maureen Hildreth, center, voices her opposition to the Vancouver Energy oil terminal at an anti-terminal rally Jan. 5 at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. The campaign Stand Up To Oil organized the rally, and others like it, to tap into the strong regional distaste for fossil fuel projects.

Natalie Behring/The Columbian

When plans for the nation’s largest oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver surfaced in 2013, project backers likely expected opposition from environmentalists. But what they surely didn’t anticipate was that a broad swath of the region, from city councils to local businesses to Indian tribes, would so forcefully turn against a project promising tax dollars and jobs to a cash- and job-hungry community.

In the past three years, a broad-based coalition of terminal opponents has waged an unrelenting campaign to win the hearts and minds of the general public. Most of the connections within the coalition are loose and each member focuses on their particular interests, be they global warming or the risks of crude-by-rail. Collectively they’ve managed to overwhelm supporters at public hearings and in the state’s environmental review process, which generated more than 250,000 comments on the terminal, nearly all opposed to the project.

An audience member wears an anti-oil terminal button during a Port of Vancouver commissioners meeting on April 15, 2016.

An audience member wears an anti-oil terminal button during a Port of Vancouver commissioners meeting on April 15, 2016.

Amanda Cowan/Columbian

“I think (Tesoro and Savage) expected this to be easy and straightforward, they were going to roll into town and sail through the permitting process,” said Eric de Place, policy director of Seattle-based Sightline Institute, an environmentally focused think tank and one of the leading opponents of the oil terminal. “I don’t think they counted on running into this buzz saw opposition.”

The debate isn’t over. Despite local outcry that has amassed since the project’s initial proposal, the Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners still support the project. Even Commissioner Eric LaBrant, who was elected on an anti-terminal platform, voted to extend Vancouver Energy’s lease after winning some concessions.

Read more at The Columbian.