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Vancouver Port Gives Oil Companies What They Want — More Time

<p>Eric LaBrant won the 2015 race for the Port of Vancouver commissioner. He has been a critic of the Vancouver Energy Project.</p>
<p>Eric LaBrant won the 2015 race for the Port of Vancouver commissioner. He has been a critic of the Vancouver Energy Project.</p>

Commissioners at the Port of Vancouver unanimously approved an amended lease with the backers of a proposed oil terminal Friday.

If Tesoro-Savage accepts the amendments, it will effectively extend the lease, giving the companies more time to receive state approval for the project.

The port and the companies were facing what amounted to an Aug. 1 deadline on the lease. Without the extension, the future the project seemed uncertain.

If built, the Vancouver Energy Project oil terminal would the largest oil-by-rail facility in the country. It could move 360,000 barrels of Baaken crude oil from North Dakota, through the Columbia River Gorge and onto ships bound for refineries on the West Coast.

Vancouver Energy Project’s spokeswoman Tina Barbee said the companies are reviewing the port’s lease amendment, but are glad the state’s review has the opportunity to continue.

“We’re pleased to have received a unanimous decision by the Port Commission, which affirms the value of the Vancouver Energy Project and demonstrates their continued commitment to the project,” Barbee said in a statement.

The new terms from the port stipulate that crude oil sent through the Vancouver Energy Project must be bound for domestic ports and carry what’s called "pipeline-grade" crude.

Tesoro-Savage’s monthly payment to the ports would also increase from $50,000 to $100,000 staring in May.

Under the amended lease, the terminal would have a new deadline of March 31, 2017 to get the permits it needs. After that, the Port of Vancouver and Tesoro-Savage will assess the project every three months.

“I just didn’t feel like it was fair to cut them off now, even though some of the fault was theirs,” said Vancouver Port Commissioner Brian Wolfe following the meeting.

The process of reviewing the lease began last week after Tesoro-Savage proposed an amendment with the port, effectively asking for more time to complete the state’s permitting process.

Port Commissioner Jerry Oliver began Friday's meeting by proposing commissioners approve the lease extension.

The meeting also touched on climate change and other topics, related to, but not directly about the oil terminal itself.

Oliver said he supports the terminal and doesn’t believe that humans burning fossil fuels is the cause of climate change.

“To date, I suggest to you that it has not been born out by facts,” Oliver said. “I do not believe that climate change is anthropogenic in nature. Science may yet prove me wrong, but to date I have not yet seen the evidence.”

At one point, Oliver likened those who oppose the project because of their concerns about fossil fuels to his relatives who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

“They were sincere like you, and like you, sincerely wrong,” Oliver said.

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