Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has rejected a proposal to build a large oil-by-rail terminal along the Columbia River.
The state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) voted unanimously on November 28, 2017 to reject the project. In announcing his decision to reject the terminal on January 29, Inslee said EFSEC’s claims of significant risks from a potential earthquake and increased risk of an oil spill or fiery explosion were justified. Inslee says the possible environmental risks outweighed the potential economic benefits of the project.
Jobs Lost, Risks Increased
Vancouver Energy’s proposed project would have added four additional railroad trains carrying 360,000 barrels of oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota through the Columbia River Gorge daily. From there, the oil would have been loaded onto ships bound for West Coast refineries.
Vancouver Energy issued a statement saying Inslee’s decision would cost the state jobs.
“We are disappointed that Governor Inslee chose to deny the Vancouver Energy project,” the statement said. “With this decision, the Governor is rejecting much-needed family-wage jobs and over $2 billion in economic value for Southwest Washington.”
Vancouver Energy also stated Inslee’s decision was a lost opportunity to decrease the risk to the environment.
“[T]he Vancouver Energy facility and associated state-of-the-art facilities would have been far superior and more robust with regard to the potential for an earthquake or oil spill, than the crude oil trains that are already moving through the state every day and virtually all existing infrastructure in Washington,” the statement said.
Same Risks, No Rewards
Inslee’s action will not protect the environment, says Todd Myers, director of the Center for the Environment at The Washington Policy Center.
“The terminal would ultimately have been helping export energy to the Far East, primarily China, and China is not going to throw up their hands and say ‘Gee, we’re not going to get any energy,'” Myers said. “They’re going to find other sources of coal, gas, and oil. It will simply flow from somewhere else.”
One such alternative began development in May 2017 when Canada’s National Energy Board recommended approving the Trans Mountain oil sands pipeline expansion, Myers says.
The expanded pipeline would increase the amount of crude oil transported from Alberta’s oil sands from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day, to be shipped from an export terminal near Vancouver, British Columbia across the Salish Sea for export to Asian and U.S. markets.
“Ironically, this expansion would increase oil traffic through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which borders Washington state, where there are concerns about orcas and other wildlife,” Myers said. “China will get the energy it needs—it just won’t get it from the United States, and we won’t have the jobs associated with it, making it very high-cost for no gain environmentally,” said Myers.
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.