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Plan for Nation's Largest Oil-by-Rail Terminal Faces Massive Opposition

Only two groups will argue in support of the project during the five weeks of hearings, while more than a dozen entities are opposed

It was standing-room only at the first in a series of hearings on the proposed Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy terminal on Monday. (Photo: @GorgeFriends/Twitter)

Hundreds of people gathered inside and outside a hearing in Vancouver, Washington on Monday, voicing their opposition to a proposal to build the nation's largest oil-by-rail marine terminal along the Columbia River—just 70 miles downstream from where a so-called bomb train derailed and exploded less than one month ago. 

Monday marks the start of five weeks of hearings on the Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy terminal, which would handle about 360,000 barrels of crude oil and receive an average of four 1½-mile long crude oil trains per day. After hearing expert testimony and public comment, the state's Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) will make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say.

Both Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown have called for a temporary moratorium on oil-by-rail through their states in the wake of the June 3 derailment in Mosier, Oregon.

The activists who showed up en masse on Monday, wearing red and carrying signs, want that ban to become permanent.

"There's no place for transporting such a dangerous fuel through the Columbia Gorge," Friends of the Columbia Gorge executive director Kevin Gorman told local station KOIN.

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According to The Columbian, "[o]nly two groups, Vancouver Energy and the Port of Vancouver, will argue in support of the project during the five weeks of hearings."

Meanwhile, more than a dozen entities—including environmental organizations, native tribes, the state Department of Natural Resources, and the cities of Vancouver and nearby Spokane—are opposed. Furthermore, in January, the Stand Up To Oil campaign delivered a record-breaking 276,296 public comments against the proposal to the EFSEC.

The Columbian reports:


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In its opening brief, the city of Vancouver says it is “staunchly opposed to approval of the application” and even includes an aerial photo of the fiery and deadly oil train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

“This proposal is directly counter to Vancouver’s vision for itself as a vibrant urban community and threatens the safety of its approximately 165,000 citizens,” according to the brief.

Indeed, against the backdrop of the Mosier incident—which Fire Chief Jim Appleton described as a "a horrible, horrible event that almost destroyed our community"—the stakes are high in Vancouver.

An analysis by Stand (formerly ForestEthics) published after the derailment showed that 259,698 students in Oregon and Washington state are enrolled in 748 schools within the "blast zone"—the one-mile evacuation area in the event of an oil train derailment and fire.

Last weekend, 21 activists were arrested in Vancouver after forming a human blockade along the tracks.

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