A Vancouver project to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country will continue for now. After a contentious meeting Tuesday filled with passionate testimony, Port of Vancouver commissioners approved a lease extension for the controversial project.
The standing-room-only meeting went on for more than three hours. People lined up as early as 8:30 in the morning to sign up for public comment. Many sat in an overflow room, waiting to testify.
Commissioner Eric LaBrant, who was elected to the commission on an anti-terminal platform, made a motion to kill the lease with developer Vancouver Energy. But it failed in a 2-1 vote, after commission chair Brian Wolfe used his swing vote to extend the lease.
“It would be really easy for me to vote to cancel this lease,” Wolfe said. “Except that the best thing for the Port of Vancouver today is to let it happen this month.”
The lease for the oil terminal is now extended until June 30.
Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies are behind the joint-venture Vancouver Energy.
The $210 million project would receive about four crude oil trains a day. The oil would be stored on-site and later transferred to ships on the Columbia River. At full capacity, as many as 360,000 barrels of crude oil would pass through the terminal on a daily basis.
The companies' original lease with the port included an option to terminate the lease March 31 if either party felt the terminal had not made enough progress.
Those in favor of the project touted the jobs and economic boost it would bring to Southwest Washington. Others expressed concern over environmental risks, rail safety and the nation's use of fossil fuels.
“The people of Vancouver spoke loudly today that they opposed this project,” said Dan Serres, the conservation director with Columbia Riverkeeper. “That’s a message we hope Gov. Inslee hears, because the port isn’t listening.”
Inslee will have the final say in whether the project is built.
The project is going through a regulatory process with the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which is expected to make a recommendation to Inslee later this year.
The governor will then have 60 days to decide on the project.