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WA Oil-Shipping Terminals: One Off the Table, More Still in Play

A big crowd turned out Jan. 5 for the hearing on the Tesoro-Savage oil-shipping terminal. (Maddie Foutch)
A big crowd turned out Jan. 5 for the hearing on the Tesoro-Savage oil-shipping terminal. (Maddie Foutch)
January 8, 2016

SEATTLE - The year is only a week old, and it's already a big one for opponents of the oil-shipping terminals proposed in the state.

They're counting as a "win" the news that the Renewable Energy Group says its future plans won't include handling crude oil at the terminal it purchased in Grays Harbor. That means two proposals are left in that area: by Westway and U.S. Development. It's unclear whether REG's decision will affect either of those, but Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles said there are other factors.

"We are in litigation already about all of them, so litigation has played a role," she said. "But I think the public mobilization against these projects has been extraordinary, and may be something that turns the tide."

Earthjustice has been litigating this issue on behalf of tribes and environmental groups. The very volatile world crude oil market also may play a role in whether the projects move forward.

In the meantime, public hearings continue next week - on Tuesday in Vancouver and Thursday in Spokane - about the Tesoro-Savage terminal in Vancouver, which would be the largest in the nation. Spokane was included as a hearing site because it would see increased rail traffic if Tesoro-Savage is built.

Kerry McHugh, communications director for the Washington Environmental Council, was at the first hearing, in Vancouver on Tuesday.

"To have over 1,000 people turn out, on a day where southwest Washington was having pretty crummy weather, was so indicative, I think, of the strong, negative feeling and concerns they have about the impact in Vancouver, along the Gorge, up into Spokane," she said.

McHugh pointed out that there is another, smaller Vancouver terminal proposal known as NuStar. As a result of advocacy from neighbors, the Columbia River tribes and other groups, she said, NuStar now must undergo a more thorough permitting process.

Shell Oil also still has plans to increase rail capacity to its refinery in Anacortes.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA