VANCOUVER, Wash. – Friday will conclude the month-long trial of a proposed crude oil terminal in Vancouver, which would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in North America.
The project has been under review by the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), which is tasked with providing Gov. Jay Inslee with a recommendation on whether to approve or reject the project.
The council has been conducting a trial-like process, providing a platform for proponents and opponents to present their case.
The Washington Attorney General’s office announced its opposition to the oil terminal Friday.
In a statement, Attorney General Bob Ferguson says the potential benefits of the project are "dramatically outweighed by the potential risks and costs of a spill."
After commissioning an expert review of the project, the Attorney General’s counsel for the environment raised concerns about the severe impact the oil terminal could have on the natural resources of the Columbia River.
According to testimony, vessels loaded with crude oil would make 365 trips a year along the Columbia River, and an additional 3,000 oil trains would run through the state annually.
Supporters see the oil train as a rare opportunity.
"It really comes back, ultimately, to the need for a project like this and the ability to bring North American crude oil to the Northwest," said Jared Larrabee, general manager of Vancouver Energy. "That's something that doesn't exist in large quantities today and we have an opportunity to do that through a project like this."
However, opponents feel the environmental and safety risk is too much.
"This is not good for the community, this is a danger to the community," said Don Orange, owner of Hoesly Eco Automotive. "This will cost us jobs. We will have businesses leave Vancouver."
Last month, an oil train derailed in the Columbia River Gorge near Mosier, spilling 42,000 gallons of crude oil and sparking a massive fire that burned for 14 hours.
"We've experienced firsthand what an oil train derailment is and we and had a best case scenario," said Mosier Mayor Arlene Burns. "And it has been really devastating for our town and community and its woken us all up."
A rally was held Friday at the Clark Community College conference center before an official public hearing, where people will be invited to express their opinions to the EFSEC. That will be the last time supporters and opponents can weigh in.
After Friday, Gov. Inslee will have 60 days to make his final decision.