Crude Oil

Refinery Proposed For Columbia River

Apr 15, 2015
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The Port of Longview has been in talks with an energy company about building a crude oil refinery in southwest Washington.

Washington’s Port of Longview says it is in talks with an energy company that last year submitted plans for a crude oil refinery on the Columbia River.

Details of the company’s planned refinery surfaced Wednesday through public records obtained and released by Columbia Riverkeeper.

U.S. Department of Transportation / Northwest News Network

Washington’s rail safety regulator says there are about 3,000 rail crossings in the state that inspectors have never looked at. That's because they're on private land. And experts say these could be problem areas as more trains carry crude oil through the state. They plan to ask the legislature for more authority.

A state study on oil transport through Washington finds that the amount of crude oil shipped from North Dakota could triple in the next five years. In two decades, more than 16 trains carrying oil could cross the state every day.

Michael Berry / Flickr

Gov. Jay Inslee says more needs to be done to prevent and respond to oil spills, as more trains move volatile shipments of crude oil through Washington state.

The governor received initial findings from a state study today , looking into the safety and environmental risks of oil transport.

Inslee called the report "sobering".

The Vancouver City Council is holding a special meeting Thursday to consider an emergency moratorium on applications for new or expanded crude oil facilities.

Michael Werner / EarthFix

Crude oil shipments by rail increased by more than 80 percent, nationally, last year.

Most of it is coming from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That crude is more flammable than other types of oil, and has been shown to catch fire and explode when trains derail.

More than 15 trains of Bakken oil move through some parts of the Northwest each week, en route to refineries and terminals in Washington and Oregon.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway transports the majority of that oil.

The company regularly touts its commitment to safety.

But an EarthFix investigation reveals some troubling patterns in the way BNSF Railway deals with whistleblowers – particularly those who voice concerns about safety.

Ashley Ahearn reports for EarthFix. EarthFix’s Tony Schick contributed to the reporting for this story.

Raymond D. Woods Jr. / Flickr

The federal Department of Transportation has required railroads to notify states when they're shipping more than 1 million gallons of North Dakota crude oil by rail.

Raymond D. Woods Jr. / Flickr

BNSF Railway said it will comply with a Saturday federal deadline to provide states with information about the frequency and routes of oil trains from North Dakota and Montana.

The railroad made that announcement Friday even though Washington, Oregon and Idaho have balked at signing confidentiality agreements about the crude oil shipments.

In Olympia, state lawmakers are going down divergent tracks in how to respond to the rapid increase of crude oil trains crossing the region.

Russ Allison Loar

The rapid rise in crude oil shipping by rail means Northwest states need to bulk up their oil spill response capacity. That's according to members of a task force of Pacific states and British Columbia which met in Seattle Wednesday.

A fuel terminal developer has unexpectedly scrapped a project at the Port of Tacoma that was intended to receive crude oil by rail.

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