VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) -- Could plans to build an oil terminal on the Columbia River mean environmental disaster?
That's what critics of a proposed oil terminal said Wednesday night at a meeting in Vancouver.
The plan would bring fuel trains -- like the one that derailed and exploded in Quebec a week ago -- right into Vancouver, Wash.
Refiners have told the Port of Vancouver they are prepared to spend $100 million to build a new oil terminal at the port. But it's just downstream from Vancouver's proposed new waterfront development, and some say the project will not be a good fit here.
On Wednesday, with ukuleles playing, performers denounced the use of fossil fuels before a packed auditorium at Clark College. Many people who live near rail lines leading to the proposed oil transfer terminal were listening.
"The positive effects on our economy I don't think balance out with the negative effects on the local environment," said Alice Chadd.
The trains, carrying oil, would come within a half mile of Jack and Alice Chadd's Hazel Dell-area home. They're concerned about increased train traffic and about a potential disaster spill like the one that burned in eastern Canada earlier this month.
"It's right by Vancouver Lake, which drains right into the Columbia River and the Lewis River," Chadd said. "I'm not sure if that's okay. That company will do everything it can to prevent disasters, but accidents happen -- that's why they call them accidents."
Oil refiner Tesoro was not at Wednesday night's meeting. But last month those at the company told Port of Vancouver commissioners they want to expand operation in Vancouver to handle 280,000 barrels of oil a day.
It would come here by rail from the Dakotas, be transferred to tankers and turned into gasoline -- after being shipped to refineries on the West Coast.
Bill McKibben, a scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, was in town. He said the terminal at the port will be a bad neighbor for the proposed Vancouver waterfront development just a mile or so upstream.
"If it decides it wants to be the Houston of the Northwest," McKibben said, "then expect all the things that go with that."
To McKibben, that means health and environmental hazards and lower property values.
Tesoro has told the port the project would create 250 construction jobs as it's being built. Another 80 permanent positions are planned for the site once it is in operation.
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