Oregon environmental regulators imposed an unusually big fine this week against a crude oil terminal on the Columbia River that violated its air quality permit.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued the $117,000 fine to the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery in Clastkanie, Ore., after the facility handled 300 million gallons of crude oil in 2013. Its permit was for 50 million gallons.
Jenny Root is an environmental law specialist with the DEQ. She said the fine is large because of the facility’s size and because owners were told they needed a new permit before increasing operations.
“This is a larger, more environmentally sophisticated company that appears to have adequate resources and expertise to avoid the violation,” Root said.
The facility opened as an ethanol plant in 2008. After it went bankrupt, Global Partners LP out of Massachusetts bought it to use as a transfer point between rail and marine shipments of crude oil.
DEQ authorized the initial permit in 2012, a year before several high-profile oil train explosions that created national concern about moving crude by rail.
The facility is seeking a new permit to receive 1.8 billion gallons of crude oil. It is up for review with a public hearing on April 3 in Clatskanie.
Root said the DEQ will not seek to halt plant operations until a new permit is in place because the plant does not pose an imminent threat to human health or the environment.
"The facility can legally conduct their operations as they’re doing now, they just need a permit to do it from DEQ," Root said. "It’s not an operation that DEQ could not permit. The current ethanol plant permit is similar to the new permit that they’re seeking for the crude oil.”