July 10th, 2014 | by KATE WILLSON News | Posted In: Environment, Multnomah County, Transportation, Business

New Report Says Tesoro's Track Record Raises Safety, Pollution Concerns About Proposed Plant on Columbia

anacortes-oil-refinery.-photo-by-ryan-healy-cc.Anacortes oil refinery - Ryan Healy

A new report released today raises questions about a giant crude oil terminal that Tesoro Refining & Marketing LLC and the Savage Companies want to build at the Port of Vancouver, Wash.

The proposed Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal would allow the transfer of 360,000 barrels of crude oil a day from trains to ships at a new facility on the Columbia River. The terminal would be the largest such facility on the West Coast and would allow for a significant expansion in the amount of crude shipped from North Dakota's Bakken field to the Northwest.

Such an expansion would benefit Tesoro because the company operates a refinery in Anacortes, Wash. and two much larger refineries in Martinez, Calif and Los Angeles. West Coast refineries have historically had fewer options for crude oil supply than those on the Gulf and East Coasts, so the development of train-fed terminals on the Columbia marks a significant diversification.

But a new report by Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based sustainabilty think-tank, says people should be concerned based on Tesoro's history of "flouting safety rules, injuring workers, polluting local air, and meddling in politics." Publicly-traded Tesoro is one of the nation's largest oil refiners.

Here are a few things Sightline points to that might cause residents to raise an eyebrow: 

Willful” violations in Anacortes refinery fire: After a deadly 2010 refinery fire in Anacortes killed seven workers, state and federal investigators blasted Tesoro, calling the company “complacent” about safety and issuing 39 citations of “willful” indifference to hazards at the site.

One facility, 4,000 clean air violations: The EPA says that Tesoro violated the Clean Air Act no fewer than 4,000 times at a single refinery in North Dakota and hundreds more times at other refinery locations. The company is among the top 100 toxic polluters nationally.

Oil spills and secrecy: When a Tesoro pipeline burst in 2013, the company did not bother to inform the affected landowner, who only discovered the spill after he noticed crude oil bubbling six inches high around the tires of his combine.

Hostility to safety investigators: Tesoro barred the gates to federal safety investigators after a burst pipe at a California refinery sprayed two workers in the face with sulfuric acid. Though the workers were helicoptered to a hospital and treated for burns, Tesoro called its employees’ injuries “minor.”

 
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