Duck washers wanted
By Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper
The oil industry has a new job creation strategy—oil spills! Officials from the State of Washington raised concerns about the economic impacts of oil spills from the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal that oil-giant Tesoro wants to build on the Columbia River. But Tesoro smacked down those questions for “fail[ing] to recognize economic activity that would be generated by spill response.”
Yes! An oil spill on the Columbia River could result in thousands of ducks, herons, and eagles covered with oil—somebody needs to wash them. I don’t know how to wash oil off juvenile salmon, but perhaps Tesoro could pioneer fish washing too. Then there are jobs of disposing of the carcasses of dead salmon and otters, including hazard pay for stench.
Tesoro’s expert, Dr. Todd Schatzki, provided the following written testimony to Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (I’m not making this up):
“When a spill occurs, new economic activity occurs to clean-up contaminated areas, remediate affected properties, and supply equipment for cleanup activities. Anecdotal evidence from recent spills suggests that such activity potentially be large.”
Footnote: “A recent spill in Santa Barbara, California led to more than 700 new temporary positions. The BP Deepwater Horizon spill led to an even larger increase in employment and economic activity, with employment of approximately 25,000 workers.”
Yes, yes, yes! Thank you Tesoro. We can do better than that Santa Barbara pipeline leak. We’re going for Deepwater Horizon-level jobs! A spill from your oil supertankers will employ thousands of people. Tesoro could offer oil cleanup jobs to the fishermen who lose their livelihoods. Because the Pacific Northwest is investing big bucks to save salmon, we will not skimp on necessary soap, booms, and shovels for the Columbia—a windfall for our local stores.
And the economic benefits don’t stop there. Tesoro plans to deliver crude to its shipping terminal on dangerous oil trains, possibly along the same route as the recent derailment and explosion in Mosier, Oregon. Another derailment will create jobs for first responders, firefighters, and school evacuators.
While Tesoro’s expert report reads like a satire, it is sadly real. When faced with questions about the economic harm from oil spills, Tesoro desperately points to the benefits of oil spills (don’t get me started on Tesoro’s fisheries expert who said oil spills are good for salmon populations because people will stop fishing). Yes, we want jobs, but not at the expense of our existing economy and the health and safety of our people. The oil giant Tesoro is out of touch with the values of our region: clean water, healthy communities, and a sustainable economy.