WASHOUGAL — The Port of Vancouver put safeguards into a lease it signed for a controversial oil-by-rail project, including a safety and operations plan it must approve before the crude-handling facility launches, Todd Coleman, the port’s executive director, said Tuesday evening.
The port is “putting together a community-based committee” to review the development of that plan, Coleman told the Port of Camas-Washougal Board of Commissioners during the board’s regular public hearing.
“Safety is No. 1 in our minds,” he said.
Coleman’s presentation to the east Clark County port focused on the proposal by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies to build a $110 million facility capable of handling as much as 380,000 barrels of crude per day for eventual conversion into transportation fuels.
The companies’ proposal is undergoing a yearlong environmental examination by the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.
Port of Vancouver Commissioner Brian Wolfe joined Coleman for the presentation. Port of Camas-Washougal commissioners also took public comment during the well-attended meeting.
By 6 p.m., four people had spoken against the oil terminal. Several more were lined up to speak. Vancouver resident Don Steinke raised several concerns, including four oil-train explosions in the past six months. He said the oil terminal would do more harm than good to Clark County’s economy.
“What’s in it for Camas and Washougal?” he said.
Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner Bill Ward raised concerns about increased oil-train traffic.
Coleman said BNSF Railway plans to make rail improvements and that “there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Wolfe said BNSF is operating nearly at full capacity.
That’s disturbing when you consider the potential increases in both oil and coal trains, Ward replied.
Wolfe said it’s BNSF’s responsibility, not the Port of Vancouver’s, to address that.
“We understand fossil fuels aren’t a popular thing,” Coleman said at one point, “but we think we can handle it safely” and promote economic development.