Port of Vancouver commissioners unanimously approved Tuesday morning a controversial lease for a $100 million oil shipping terminal to export North Dakota crude, a project that would dramatically increase the amount of oil moving down the lower Columbia River.
Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies were seeking approval to build the facility to handle 380,000 barrels daily on a 42-acre site, the largest terminal of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. The project still needs approval from the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council and Gov. Jay Inslee.
The Vancouver Columbian newspaper reported that the state review could take a year, and the companies hope to start construction in 2014.
The applicants say the oil terminal could bring $4.5 million in revenue to the port annually and support 120 jobs.
If the project wins state approval, the Tesoro terminal would be the second oil-export dock on the Lower Columbia River and would represent quantum leap in crude oil moving down the river. Massachusetts oil distributor Global Partners operates an oil export dock at Port Westward, near Clatskanie, which a Seattle-based consultant recently estimated is handling 28,000 barrels of crude oil daily — only 8 percent as much as the proposed Vancouver dock.
Global recently applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to upgrade the existing Port Westward dock to accommodate Panamax-class vessels — vessels that are the largest capable of moving through the Panama Canal. It is not known whether this would increase Global’s shipments through Port Westward, or whether it will boost the number of trains of crude moving through Rainier.
Workers at the Vancouver terminal would unload four trains daily and store oil from the Bakken deposit, which is centered in North Dakota. A new technology called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has created a new oil boom there. From Vancouver, the oil would then be loaded onto ships and sent down the Columbia River to refineries along the West Coast.
According to project opponent Columbia RiverKeeper, 100 people packed a hearing room at the Port of Vancouver Monday night opposing the oil terminal.
RiverKeeper officials pointed to the July 6 derailment and explosion of a oil train car carrying Bakken oil in Quebec, which killed 50 people. They say they worry that risks of a similar accident happening on the Columbia increase when more oil trains are coming through the region.
Port of Vancouver commissioners said Tuesday that the lease addresses safety concerns and port managers will pay close attention to the companies to ensure the terminal is built right, the Columbian reported.