There are, it turns out, dozens of way to say yes or no.
Hundreds gathered Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 5, at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds in Ridgefield to offer testimony on a proposed rail-to-marine oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver that would be the nation’s largest, receiving an average of 360,000 barrels of oil per day.
For those following the project proposed by Vancouver Energy, a consortium of Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies, the comments for and against the terminal were familiar.
“The likelihood of a catastrophe becomes not a probability, but an eventuality,” said Russell Freeman of Vancouver.
“We see this as an opportunity for the environmental community to partner with Vancouver Energy to create a showcase of ... stewardship,” said Rob Rich, a supporter of the project.
Our safety is in your hands. We urge you to tell Gov. (Jay) Inslee to deny the project.
Jared Smith, president of a local Longshore union
The hearing is the first of two scheduled in Vancouver by the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, the state regulatory body that is reviewing the project and in November issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement. The council will eventually make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who will have the final say in approving the project.
As the hearing on the draft environmental review continued Tuesday afternoon, the blue signs and green thumbs-up stickers of supporters mingled with those decked in red, who were giving a visual thumbs-down to the proposal.
The opponents, many wearing red shirts, appeared to outnumber the supporters. Speakers came from all over Western Washington and Northwest Oregon. Comments for the first few hours were fairly back-and-forth between supporters and opponents, however.
Opponents on Tuesday hammered on the risks involved with four 120-unit trains full of oil traveling through the Columbia River Gorge and into Vancouver every day.
“Our safety is in your hands. We urge you to tell Gov. (Jay) Inslee to deny the project,” said Jared Smith, president of the local Longshore union.
I have seen this company go above and beyond when it comes to protecting its employees and the environment.
Jerry Miller, who worked for a Savage Cos. terminal in North Dakota
Supporters reiterated that the project could be operated safely.
“I have seen this company go above and beyond when it comes to protecting its employees and the environment,” said Jerry Miller, who worked for a Savage Cos. terminal in North Dakota.
The project has been controversial from the time the proposal became public in 2013. Opponents have seized on what they call risks to life, property and ecosystems that they say cannot be mitigated. Vancouver Energy has said the terminal will bring jobs and tax revenue to the community and will contribute to U.S. energy independence.
Oil arriving at the terminal would be transferred to ships for transport to refineries, though the possibility of foreign export is included in the environmental review.
The site evaluation council’s current public review period, which also includes a hearing in Spokane, is a significant milestone in the state’s exhaustive review of $210 million project, which would be the nation’s largest oil transfer terminal. Another hearing will take place Jan. 12, also at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds in Ridgefield.
Project opponents said they hoped to attract hundreds of people to a demonstration at the fairgrounds during a dinner break, which begins at 4:30 p.m. Vancouver Energy opened a hospitality room, open to all, at the event center.
After another hearing Jan. 12 in Vancouver, comments will continue to be collected through Jan. 22.