The deadline to reach a decision on a controversial oil terminal planned for Vancouver has been pushed back again. The Washington state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, filed an extension that will give it until Aug. 31 to make a recommendation to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
The extension is the sixth time the state energy board has pushed the deadline for a recommendation.
Under state law, EFSEC is supposed to make a decision within a year. But in the case of the Vancouver Energy oil terminal, Washington’s energy board has been considering the project since 2013.
“It’s frustrating that it’s dragging out this long,” said Dan Serres, the conservation director at the Columbia Riverkeeper, a nonprofit that opposes the project. “But from our perspective, the decision is obvious.”
The $210 million Vancouver Energy terminal, backed by Tesoro-Savage, 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.
Serres believes EFSEC is taking time to consider the health and environmental risks of the oil-by-rail terminal. If built, it would be the largest of its kind in the country.
“The process is thorough and it’s robust, but it has taken longer than we have anticipated,” said Vancouver Energy general manager Jared Larrabee.
Despite the longer than anticipated process, Vancouver Energy says it’s committed to seeing the project to completion, if approved by the state.
But Larrabee says there are broader implications. The delays and long permitting process sends a certain message to future energy projects looking to do business in Southwest Washington.
“It’s really all projects looking to come into the state,” Larrabee said. “The impacts aren’t just to us, but to a broader stakeholder base and future applicants.”
EFSEC still needs to approve a final permit, the draft industrial stormwater permit, and hold a public hearing and 30-day comment period.
Once the energy council makes a recommendation, it will go to Inslee for a final decision.