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Groups petition DEQ

Photo Credit: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - A unit train carrying crude oil makes its way through Columbia County. Environmental watchdog groups like Columbia Riverkeeper recently petitioned the Department of Environmental Quality to reconsider a permit issued for Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery oil transloading operations.

Environmentalist organizations are petitioning state environmental regulators to reconsider an air quality permit issued for an oil terminal at Port Westward, north of Clatskanie.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air contaminant discharge permit for the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery on Aug. 19 after receiving substantial public comment during the review process.

Last week, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, a conservation nonprofit managed by professors, law students and attorney alumni at Lewis and Clark Law School, led a petition that was submitted to DEQ requesting the state agency reevaluate whether all of the bio-refinery’s impacts had been considered.

Columbia Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Neighbors for Clean Air joined the petition effort.

Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery was originally developed as an ethanol manufacturing plant, though no ethanol has been processed at the site to date. It has since been modified to receive rail shipments of volatile Bakken crude oil, which is then transloaded onto barges for transport to a refinery.

Petitioners argue DEQ made substantial revisions to the terms and conditions of the permit after the public comment period closed. They also allege DEQ failed to consider all of the environmental and human health impacts of transporting crude oil by rail and ship.

The air contaminant permit was issued to Cascade Kelly Holdings LLC, which does business as Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery, according to DEQ. Cascade Kelly is owned by Global Partners LP.

“Global’s air pollution permit gives the green light for this facility to ship nearly two billion gallons of crude oil every year and that has staggering impacts on the environment,” Lauren Goldberg, an attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper, said. “There’s no debate about the fact that there’s air pollution from this facility. They wouldn’t have needed an air pollution permit if there wasn’t.”

Goldberg points to emissions from trains transporting the crude oil, transloading of crude oil between rail lines and barges, as well as the storage of the oil, as sources of air pollution that DEQ may not have fully considered.

David Monro, air quality manager with DEQ’s northwest region, said the petition is currently being reviewed.

“There are a lot of points that have been brought up in that petition,” Monro said. “We take it seriously and we need to look all of those elements before issuing a response.”

Monro said DEQ has 60 days to respond to the petition. If the agency doesn’t issue a response, the air quality permit for the oil transloading facility is automatically denied.

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