The Port of Vancouver’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to put an end date on a lease with Vancouver Energy, the company behind a controversial project to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the nation.
At the board’s first meeting of the year, commissioners set a deadline of March 31 for Vancouver Energy to have all necessary permits and licenses in place.
If the company fails to get its paperwork in order, the Port will allow its lease with the company to expire, essentially ending the project.
“We’re obviously disappointed in the outcome and the vote,” said Vancouver Energy General Manager Jared Larrabee. “We’re really at the point of evaluating what our options are going forward.”
If built, the terminal project would send four additional oil trains, carrying 360,000 barrels of oil, through the Columbia River Gorge daily.
The motion to terminate the rolling lease on March 31 was introduced by Port Commissioner Eric LaBrant. It was seconded by newly elected Commissioner Don Orange, who handily won election in November, largely because of his stance against the terminal.
Commissioner Jerry Oliver, a staunch supporter of the terminal, surprised many by joining his colleagues and voting in favor of the motion.
“I believe that in a spirit of conciliation and cooperation for the benefit of the Port of Vancouver and this community, I will support your motion,” said Oliver, before the motion passed.
The room erupted in applause after the vote, as oil terminal opponents cheered the decision and held a rally in the parking lot outside.
“The unanimity was a pleasant surprise,” said Dan Serres, conservation director for the environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper. “The people in Vancouver have repeatedly urged an end to this lease. We think that this is really the beginning of the end for the oil terminal."
“It’s gratifying to have our commission be united in its vision for the future of the port and community,” said Commissioner Eric LaBrant in an emailed statement. “We still await (Gov. Jay Inslee's) decision on the project and we continue to be focused on supporting businesses, growing jobs and providing benefit to our community.”
Tuesday’s vote was the latest blow to the terminal project. In December, the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council voted unanimously to reject the project.
Their recommendation is now in Inslee's hands, who has until mid-February to make a final determination.
Tara Lee, the governor’s deputy commination’s director, said an announcement could come as early as the end of the month.