By Roy L Hales
Waterside Energy’s proposal to build the Columbia River’s first oil refinery (Riverside Refining LLC), as well as a propane export terminal (Washington Energy Storage & Transfer LLC, also known as “WEST”), has come to an abrupt end. Port commissioners say the proponent failed to provide necessary information. Opponents of the projects are hailing the Port Commission’s vote as the latest in a string of defeats for fossil fuel projects on the Columbia River. After two years of negotiations, the Port of Longview terminated negotiations for oil & propane facilities.
Longview Terminated Negotiations
“This decision is based on the proponent’s failure to demonstrate the WEST project’s financial wherewithal, plain and simple. We have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure project proposals are viable,” said Commission President Bob Bagaason.
“This isn’t about fossil fuels, I want to make that clear. The Port of Longview is open for business and all project proposals will be evaluated on their individual merits, not the commodity,” said Commissioner Doug Averett.
The Biodiesel Facility in Odessa
According to a press release from Columbia Riverkeeper, when Waterside Energy’s backers abandoned their previous biodiesel facility, in Odessa, Washington, they fired all employees and left over $1.6 million in unpaid bills.
A January 4, 2016 memo from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states the Odessa facility contains:
” … large quantities o f various process chemicals, hazardous materials and waste that had been abandoned on the Site presented a threat of release to the air, and fire/explosion through reaction of incompatible chemicals and/or improperly stored and leaking totes. Large volume tanks could fail, releasing their contents. An organic vapor release or vapors/smoke from a fire or explosion could threaten the nearby population. Trespassers or ODPA employees and guests could have come into direct contact with chemicals at the Site and been exposed to organic and/or toxic vapors, corrosives, and ignitable/flammable materials. Exterior chemical containers could contaminate soils and surface water due to corroding and open containers.”
Longview Residents Relieved
A number of Longview residents expressed their relief, when the project was rejected, in a press release published by Columbia Riverkeeper.:
“I’ve taught in schools near oil refineries—the smell was hard to live with but the rate of childhood cancer was devastating. Today, the port commission did the right thing for Longview’s children,” said Krista Mead, elementary school teacher at Columbia Valley Garden Elementary School.
Waterside proposed serving the refinery and the propane terminal with trains. “If there was a large oil train incident, we would have to call in help from outside areas to respond to the current level of flammable materials traveling through our service area,” said Glen Hudson, a volunteer with the Cowlitz 2 fire department. “The port commission rejected a project that we are unprepared to respond to. Statistics from 2016 already reveal that we are facing a higher volume of emergency response calls—our resources are already being stretched too thin. If the fire department expanded to meet the risk that Waterside poses, taxpayers would bear the burden.”
“ … Our region values clean water and healthy communities,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “Dirty fossil fuel projects fly in the face of these values. The Port of Longview heard loud and clear from its constituents: an oil refinery and propane terminal are dirty and dangerous.”
“This community presented a compelling argument against the Waterside oil refinery and propane terminal,” stated Kelso resident Linda Horst. “By voting ‘no’, our port commissioners demonstrated a sincere desire to work not only for the community, but with the community. I thank them for the resounding ‘no’ vote.”
Top Photo taken from page 14 of the Odessa Biodiesel Site Action Memo