Friday, August 28, 2015

Vancouver USA Wins Environmental Case

By Mark Edward Nero

The Washington Court of Appeals on Aug. 25 ruled in favor of the Port of Vancouver USA regarding an appeal brought by two environmental groups over whether the port’s lease for the Vancouver Energy terminal complies with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

Environmental groups Columbia Riverkeeper and Northwest Environmental Defense Center claimed that the port failed to follow SEPA during the lease approval process.

Specifically, they alleged that the port should have waited to approve the lease until the state energy siting council (EFSEC) issued its environmental impact statement. They alleged that the lease improperly limited the alternatives to be considered in the siting council process.

However, the appeals court this week affirmed a January 2014 ruling by Clark County Superior Court Judge David E. Gregerson, who had ruled that the Port of Vancouver USA was not required to conduct a SEPA review prior to entering the lease with Tesoro-Savage.

Gregerson also found that the lease did not limit the alternatives to be considered during environmental review because it’s contingent on completion of that review.

The Court of Appeals also found that the port’s decision to enter the lease was exempt from SEPA’s Environmental Impact Statement requirement and did not limit the choice of reasonable alternatives for the project.

“We are pleased that the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the decision of the Superior Court,” port CEO Todd Coleman said. “This is yet another ruling in the port’s favor that reaffirms our commitment to responsible development and thorough environmental review.”

“We look forward to continuing our collaborative work with all interested parties as the Vancouver Energy project goes through the EFSEC process,” Coleman said.