EFSEC review of Vancouver Energy needs to be completed

Nancy Baker

In 2015, the Port of Vancouver had the highest revenue and tonnage totals in its history, and it appears poised for an even better 2016. Approval of Vancouver Energy would be the icing on the cake.

As a Port of Vancouver Commissioner until December 31, 2015, I acted with my fellow Commissioners nearly three years ago to approve the Tesoro-Savage lease for Vancouver Energy. The process actually started much earlier. We analyzed the port’s strengths and assets, including major rail improvements underway, and decided a crude oil terminal could be a viable option to provide jobs and economic stimulus to our community and region.

We focused on safety from the beginning, knowing we needed assurance that an oil terminal could be built and operated safely. We hired a number of experts along the way to confirm that it could be done.

We invited proposals from qualified companies, and selected the Tesoro and Savage Vancouver Energy proposal, based on the companies’ expertise, history of West Coast operations, and strong record and commitment to safety and environmental protection. We also knew of Tesoro’s 30 years of operating a petroleum products terminal at the port without a single reportable spill or incident.

We recognized that Vancouver Energy fit with the port’s mission to utilize its assets to help create and sustain jobs and economic vitality. The $275 million West Vancouver Freight Access project, our available industrial land, and our location as the shortest link from the Midwest to West Coast refineries make it an ideal site for this energy infrastructure project.

I have long been a supporter and advocate for redeveloping the waterfront with public access. The Terminal One waterfront development and Vancouver Energy can co-exist, and they will diversify our economy while making optimum use of and enhancing port infrastructure.

Finally, we knew that the project would go through a thorough, fact-based review by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council followed by a final decision by Governor Inslee.

Nothing in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement issued by EFSEC, or any other analysis, has convinced me that Vancouver Energy would be anything less than outstanding for the port, our community and our country.

The tangible benefits of Vancouver Energy include a projected $2 billion economic impact, more than 300 construction jobs, hundreds of permanent family-wage jobs, $7.8 million a year in taxes for local and state services and more than $40 million in lease payments to the port for additional investment.

Vancouver Energy will also strengthen America by reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil from unstable parts of the world by up to 30 percent.

In a state heavily dependent on energy-intensive industries and activities, petroleum can’t be just cut out of our economy and our lives. We depend on it for personal transportation and so many other needs. Alternative energy development may ultimately replace petroleum, but the transition will take decades by even the most optimistic projections.

The intent of the commissioners’ original vote on the lease was to allow enough time for EFSEC and the governor to complete their due diligence. It would be a mistake to not allow that to happen. Continuing the lease to accommodate a longer-than-anticipated EFSEC process should be a non-issue. Taking a different path would be a huge negative mark that will discourage other investors from trusting and doing business with the port.

The commissioners should continue their support to allow the EFSEC review of Vancouver Energy to be completed.

Nancy Baker served two six-year terms as a Port of Vancouver commissioner (2003-2015). Prior to that, Baker worked on the port staff for more than a decade.