Unions rally to support Vancouver Energy project at Port of Vancouver meeting

Commissioners Brian Wolfe and Jerry Oliver choose to allow the EFSEC process to continue

Brook Pell
For ClarkCountyToday.com

VANCOUVER — On Tuesday, unions and companies from across the region gathered at the Port of Vancouver’s monthly Commissioners meeting in support of Vancouver Energy’s Oil Terminal project.

As the meeting began it was standing room only with union members turning out in force. Among the turnout were, Operating Engineers Local 701, Ironworkers Local 29, Laborers Local 335, IBEW Local 48, Insulators Local 36, Boilermakers  Local 242, and the Carpenters — all there in support of extending the Vancouver Energy lease another 90 days.

Representatives from companies such as Tidewater and Shaver Transportation were also in attendance to voice their support of the project and urged the commissioners to allow the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to complete the evaluation process. Photo courtesy of Brook Pell
Representatives from companies such as Tidewater and Shaver Transportation were also in attendance to voice their support of the project and urged the commissioners to allow the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to complete the evaluation process. Photo courtesy of Brook Pell

Companies such as Tidewater and Shaver Transportation were also in attendance to voice their support of the project and urged the commissioners to allow the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to complete the evaluation process.

In July of 2013 the port entered into a lease with Tesoro Savage after putting out a request for proposal (RFP) for Terminal 5. Vancouver Energy is a joint venture between Tesoro (NKA Andeavor) and Savage.

In August of 2013, EFSEC began their review process. Vancouver Energy along with many regional residents have waited over four years for EFSEC to make their recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say as to whether Vancouver Energy can in fact build the oil terminal.

On Nov. 28, EFSEC recommended Gov. Inslee not approve the terminal project during a very brief meeting in which Commissioner Brian Wolfe called the process into question during the meeting saying, “I believe the EFSEC process is flawed, there is no way it should have taken four plus years to make a decision.”

Wolfe went on to say, “the fact that they made a decision in somewhere between five-to-eight minutes with no discussion calls me to ask about the secret meetings that they might have had that we’ve (referring to the port commision) been accused of having.’’ Wolfe went on to speculate he may have even ran for another term on the commission had EFSEC not prolonged the process.

Nate Stokes, the field coordinator for operating engineers 701 also spoke of frustrations with the EFSEC process saying, “It is complete nonsense for EFSEC to recommend against this terminal because they are afraid of things that their own environmental impact statement says are extremely unlikely to happen.” Stokes continued, “Vancouver Energy committed to safety and environmental protection measures that in some cases far exceeded state and federal requirements.”  

On Tuesday, unions and companies from across the region gathered at the Port of Vancouver’s monthly Commissioners meeting in support of Vancouver Energy’s Oil Terminal project. Photo courtesy of Brook Pell
On Tuesday, unions and companies from across the region gathered at the Port of Vancouver’s monthly Commissioners meeting in support of Vancouver Energy’s Oil Terminal project. Photo courtesy of Brook Pell

A critic of the project, Katherine Chuddy (of Vancouver) said, “Unlikely events do happen, they happened in Mosier,” referring to the oil spill that occurred due to a derailment of a Union Pacific train carrying oil through the Columbia River Gorge. Vancouver Energy has partnered with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to carry its oil by rail. Stokes was sure to point out BNSF safety measures will be put into place by saying, “BNSF Railway committed to major improvements to its rail lines and operation procedures.”

Another strong supporter of the oil terminal that spoke at the meeting was Chris Montgomery a local union worker also for IUOE 701. Montgomery said, “It appears the EFSEC process was a stacked deck from the beginning.  It was supposed to be completed in one year. Now, four-and-a-half years later, after stringing Vancouver Energy along all that time, and asking over and over again for more time to complete their review, and charging Vancouver Energy millions of dollars, they come out with a unanimous vote with no discussion whatsoever.”

The same frustrated tone seemed to carry throughout the public speakers with only a few who opposed the project speaking. One dissenter deviated from the Vancouver Energy theme and urged the commission to begin thinking about adopting their own policy that would mimic the Paris Climate Accord.

Several supporters of the oil terminal even urged Gov. Inslee to stray from the EFSEC recommendation and approve the project so southwest Washington can be supplied with family wage jobs the region sorely needs.

According to Vancouver Energy, “Clark County and surrounding counties will benefit with approximately 320 full-time jobs during the terminal construction. Plus, 176 direct on-site jobs and 440 direct off-site operations jobs will be created to operate the facility. More than 1,000 jobs will be supported by Vancouver Energy once the terminal is fully operational.”

Port of Vancouver commissioners Eric LaBrant (left) and Brian Wolfe (right) listen to a speaker at Tuesday’s Port of Vancouver meeting. Photo courtesy of Brook Pell
Port of Vancouver commissioners Eric LaBrant (left) and Brian Wolfe (right) listen to a speaker at Tuesday’s Port of Vancouver meeting. Photo courtesy of Brook Pell

As far as the economic impact, the project could generate “$2 billion in economic value to the local and regional economy of the City of Vancouver, Clark County and surrounding counties through labor income.”

Vancouver residents have been very divided on the project and with the meeting more than likely being Wolfe’s last meeting regarding the project, he urged the audience, “don’t let things like this divide the community,” going on to say, “don’t walk away hating each other — respect each other in your decisions and your decision-making process.”

In the end, Wolfe and fellow Commissioner Jerry Oliver chose not to second Commissioner Eric LaBrant’s motion to terminate the project lease with Wolfe saying he was going to, “let the process go through.”

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