Human Health and Columbia River at Risk According to Expert Reports On Tesoro’s Vancouver, WA, Crude-By-Rail Terminal


Experts Flag Major Risks of Crude-by-Rail, Criticize Official Study of Impacts

Jan. 22, 2016 (Vancouver, WA) – Five experts released reports today that explain how the nation’s largest crude-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, Washington, could jeopardize public health and the Columbia River’s endangered salmon runs.

After noticing obvious flaws in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the Stand Up to Oil coalition commissioned national experts to take a closer look. The experts on seismic risk, air quality, spill risk, and rail safety found that the DEIS fails to disclose the oil terminal’s full impacts. The credentials of each expert are included in the reports.

“This is the largest and most dangerous proposal in decades—the public deserves to know the real impacts,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

The reports found the following:

  • Air Toxics Report, Elinor Fanning, Ph.D.
    The DEIS contains “[l]ittle to no mention of the health effects of air pollution . . . .” p.5.
  • Seismic Risk and Environmental Effects, Joseph Wartman, Ph.D.
    • “Liquefaction-induced ground failure [resulting from a large earthquake] would be expected to damage oil pipeline and tank system components, including associated emergency containment structures . . . .” p.2.
    • In an earthquake, the “dock and adjacent pipeline has a high risk of liquefaction-induced lateral spreading and ground deformation, which could severely damage the transfer pipeline infrastructure and result in the release of oil. In addition, the proposed ground improvement measures . . . will not mitigate the lateral spread risk.” p.3.
    • “An independent seismic review of the project . . . indicated that the current Tesoro Savage seismic mitigation plan is inadequate.” p.4.
  • Air Quality Analysis, Dr. Ranajit Sahu
    • The DEIS’s “air quality, toxic air pollution, and greenhouse gas emission calculations are either incorrect or unsupported.” p.2.
    • The DEIS’s air quality analysis “does not discuss additional air emissions from . . . idling locomotive[ engines],” even though the DEIS predicts that train traffic will exceed rail capacity and cause train congestion. p.6.
    • “The Draft EIS fails to disclose, address, or analyze the VOC [volatile organic compound] emissions from the volatile crude oil during transit.” “[A] single train of 120 cars . . . could emit . . . around 450 tons of VOC pollutants,” and “those emissions will . . . be concentrated in urban or more-populated areas” where trains slow down and stop. pp.7–8.
    • The DEIS “underestimate[es the] greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the operation of the facility” because the DEIS only analyzes the greenhouse gas emissions that would occur within Washington state. p.9.
  • Spills Risk, Harvey Consulting LLC
    • Existing “state and federal regulations are insufficient” to address the amount of oil that Tesoro-Savage’s proposal would bring onto Washington railroads. p.4.
    • Tesoro-Savage would build six 360,000-barrel oil storage tanks, surrounded by a secondary containment berm capable of holding 606,020 barrels. The DEIS concludes that just 360,000 barrels—the volume of one tank—is the worst case spill during a large earthquake. But “[i]f an earthquake was large enough to breach one tank, it would likely result in the failure of all six similarly designed and constructed tanks.” p.24.
    • The chance of an oil spill related to Tesoro-Savage’s facility in any “given year is estimated at 23%;” this “equates to a spill once every 4.4 years” from the rail cars, the terminal, or the oil tankers. p.28.
    • “The DEIS confirms that local fire departments are not currently trained, resourced, or fully equipped to respond to an industrial fire or emergency at the terminal and along the rail corridor.” p.33.
  • Rail Safety, Dr. Fred Millar
    • The “DEIS analysis is inadequate, and . . . downplays the serious risk of an oil train fire and explosion.” p.2.
    • “[A]t-risk communities are left in the dark as to potential worst case scenario [crude by rail] releases.” p.3.
    • “The DEIS’s neglect of potential catastrophic fire and explosion risks is underscored by ample evidence that petrochemical storage tank disasters continue to occur worldwide.” p.16.
    • Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, will now evaluate these expert comments, along with public testimony, and complete a Final Environmental Impact Statement. The Energy Council will hold a trial-type adjudication of facts and then make a recommendation to Governor Jay Inslee, who will approve or deny the oil terminal. Earthjustice represents Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, ForestEthics, Spokane Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council, Climate Solutions, and Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association in this matter.

STAND UP TO OIL is a growing coalition of groups opposed to new oil terminals and an increase in oil transport through the Northwest, while working to improve safety measures for oil currently traveling through the region. Learn more at

About Columbia Riverkeeper
Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean. Representing over 8,000 members and supporters, Columbia Riverkeeper works to restore a Columbia River where people can safely eat the fish they catch, and where children can swim without fear of toxic exposure. The organization is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement, uniting more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations worldwide. For more information go to