A majority of the Vancouver City Council now publicly opposes plans to build the Northwest’s largest oil-handling facility at the Port of Vancouver.
Councilor Jack Burkman made his opposition known at the end of Monday’s council meeting. Councilors Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Bart Hansen and Larry Smith all confirmed to The Columbian on Wednesday that they, too, oppose the $110 million project proposed by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies.
While the city council doesn’t have direct control over the project — Tesoro-Savage signed the lease with the Port of Vancouver’s Board of Commissioners, and the facility will have to be approved by Gov. Jay Inslee — having a majority of the seven-member council in opposition means the city can actively fight it.
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and Councilors Alishia Topper and Bill Turlay have said it’s premature to take a position.
Todd Coleman, the Port of Vancouver’s executive director, said Wednesday the council’s majority opposition to the proposed oil-by-rail transfer terminal “surprises me a little bit,” because he thought the city was prepared to learn all of the facts that will come out during the review process overseen by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC. “I think it’s premature,” he said of the council’s stance.
The lease the port commission unanimously approved with Tesoro-Savage involves 42 acres and is worth at least $45 million to the port over an initial 10 years. The port and the companies say the oil-handling project would bring several economic development benefits, including creating 250 temporary construction jobs and 120 full-time jobs, boosting local and state tax revenues, and helping support U.S. energy independence. As to whether Coleman thinks the council’s majority position imperils the proposed oil-handling project, he said: “It doesn’t help.”
On April 21, the city council will raise its profile in the controversial project by voting on whether to be an intervenor in the EFSEC process, which ends with a recommendation to Inslee.
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