The Port of Vancouver didn’t violate the State Environmental Policy Act when it leased property for what could be the nation’s largest oil terminal, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision.
Environmental groups Columbia Riverkeeper and Northwest Environmental Defense Center argued the port commissioners violated state environmental laws when it agreed to lease land to Savage Cos. and Tesoro Corp., now collaborating as Vancouver Energy, without the project first undergoing the analysis for an environmental impact statement.
The court’s majority, also ruled that the conditions and authorizes in the port’s lease, combined with the governor’s ultimate authority over the project’s future, do not limit the port’s alternatives to the project.
The oil terminal, at full production, would be capable of transferring 360,000 barrels of oil per day from Midwestern freight trains into vessels bound for refineries along the West Coast.
Currently the project is under evaluation by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council. In the coming months, that body is expected to make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who will decide the terminal’s fate.
Had the opponents prevailed, it would have required the project’s lease be voided and the port to make a new decision.
The majority affirmed the ruling, but not the rational, of the state Court of Appeals, following the reasons made by the trial court.
Miles Johnson an attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper said the organization is now focused on the evaluation council and the governor.
“They’ve heard from Vancouver and local communities throughout the gorge and treaty tribes and the Washington Attorney General — all recommending against this project,” he said.
The Port of Vancouver didn’t immediately respond for comment.