Comment on North America’s Largest Proposed Oil-by-Rail Facility

This comment period has closed and the Stand Up to Oil Coalition gathered a record-breaking 276,296 comments! Thanks to faith advocates for speaking up.

Big oil is threatening Vancouver, Washington, and rail communities along the Columbia River. According to the Vancouver Columbian, Tesoro and Savage companies propose to build and operate the largest oil-by-rail facility in the United States, shipping a staggering 360,000 barrels of crude oil a day. To put it in perspective, that’s 42% of the capacity of the (rejected) Keystone XL pipeline. It boils down to at least 4 mile and a half long trains of explosive oil through our communities every day! People of faith know this is a step backwards and that Washington can do better.

Port of Vancouver

Photo credit: WA State Dept of Transportation

In 2014, the City of Vancouver voted to oppose the Tesoro-Savage oil-by-rail terminal. The City’s resolution cites safety, environmental, and economic concerns. In November 2015, the City of Portland also passed a resolution against the oil terminal. But the final decision on the project remains in the hands of Governor Inslee and the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council who must evaluate the steep costs of oil-by-rail in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Gov. Inslee and his advisers need to hear from YOU that this irresponsible project does not align with your values of stewardship, safety, and justice. Raise your voice as a person of faith by signing on to Earth Ministry’s letter and adding your comment below. 

Speak up in person at public hearings in Vancouver on January 5 or Spokane on January 7

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Dear Washington Leaders of EFSEC and Governor Inslee,

As faith community members and religious leaders, we are doing our part to reduce our use of dangerous and dirty fossil fuels. We have a moral imperative, from our earliest scriptures to Laudato Si, the recent encyclical of Pope Francis, to protect and care for God’s creation. We expect that our leaders, especially the ones who make decisions about energy facilities, will also make wise decisions for Washington’s people, waterways, and future.

We ask you to deny the Tesoro-Savage oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, Washington. This is the largest proposed crude-by-rail proposal in North America, and will bring the potential of significant damage to the communities and ecosystems of our region –damage which can never be mitigated.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal in Vancouver significantly underestimates the number of accidents, oil spills, fires, and explosions that continue to occur in oil-by-rail projects. The DEIS is silent as to how to fund and organize an effective response to any of these predictable calamities. This project puts the lives of Washington citizens at risk.

Even the regular running of these heavy, dirty oil trains is bad stewardship of the land and water we have been given. Ongoing contamination, traffic delays, routine spills into fishing areas, and harm to drinking water are anathema to caring for creation. Furthermore, faith leaders stand behind tribal treaty fishing rights, which are threatened from even ordinary oil spills into the Columbia River. The DEIS also fails to adequately evaluate the greenhouse gas impacts of the oil terminal. It mistakenly concludes that the project will cause no net climate impact, despite admitting that the flow of oil through the terminal would be globally significant. The DEIS must be revised to better assess the climate impacts of crude-by-rail.

Columbia River sunset in Vancouver

Photo credit: Dale Chumbley

Rather than use the land and water of the Columbia Basin for a polluting and dangerous fossil fuel project, we ask that you steward our region toward sustainable and healthy growth. Do not put the burden of risky operations, global warming pollution, and un-mitigatable ecosystem destruction on the people and future generations of the Northwest.

We can do better, and so can you: please deny the Tesoro-Savage oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver. Thank you.