Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Port of Vancouver Wins Terminal Lawsuit

By Mark Edward Nero

A Superior Court Judge on Jan. 10 ruled against three environmental groups that have been trying to stop the Port of Vancouver, Washington from moving forward with a proposed 42-acre oil-handling terminal.

The three groups – Columbia Riverkeeper, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center and the Sierra Club – sued in October 2013 to stop the project, maintaining that its 10-year, $45 million lease was approved before an environmental study had been conducted.

Judge David Gregerson dismissed the claim, but also said the environmental groups are still allowed to continue pursuing a separate complaint, which alleges that the port violated the Washington state open meetings laws by conducting a “secret” meeting to discuss the lease last July 22.

Gregerson’s decision against the environmental groups is eligible to be appealed, but on the day of the ruling, Columbia Riverkeeper Executive Director Brett VandenHeuvel would not comment on whether the groups would appeal the decision. The port’s legal representative, however, said Vancouver intends to adhere to the stipulation regarding the July 22 executive session conducted by the Commission.

“We understand the court’s desire to allow the plaintiffs time to pursue limited additional evidence,” port attorney Lawson Fite of the Markowitz, Herbold, Glade & Mehlhaf firm, said. “We intend to work with the plaintiffs to provide the necessary information in an efficient manner.”

The project in question is a joint proposal by petroleum products company Tesoro Corp. and supply chain solutions business Savage Companies, a to develop and operate a new 120,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) crude-by-rail unloading and marine loading facility at the Port of Vancouver.

The Tesoro-Savage joint venture would own the crude unloading and marine loading facilities and enter into a land lease agreement with the port for an initial 10-year period. Savage would oversee and manage the design, construction and operation of the facility on the joint venture’s behalf.

The deal, which was approved by the Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners last October, is still subject to approval by state regulatory agencies.

“The port will continue to work collaboratively with the environmental community and other stakeholders as the Tesoro-Savage project is reviewed,” port Executive Director Todd Coleman said in a statement.