Over the years, the Port of St. Helens Commission has had some pretty significant decisions to make. Decisions that impact all of us, especially those in the Port district.
In recent months we have taken steps to make our commission meetings more open to the public by allowing citizens to have a chance to comment on specific resolutions as we debate its merits. There is no question that the commission can and will do better at communicating to the public, but I must take exception to my good friend Jim Lichatowich (see Jan. 27, "What legacy will we leave for future generations?" A4) when he says of our Jan. 18 commission meeting that, "It was clear the commission did not want to inform the public of what it was up to."
The meeting in question included a sublease amendment between Portland General Electric, Global Partners LP and the Port of St Helens. Contrary to any assertion, the sublease was complete as we deliberated it. What is true is that the first look I had of the sublease did not include some of the exhibits pertinent to the sublease. Subsequently, I met with agents from Global Partners, and then the executive director of the Port and the deputy director of the Port. I received the proper exhibits, had all my questions answered, and satisfied myself that the new sublease actually put the Port in a stronger position in regards to lease assignability. I asked specifically if there was anything in the new sublease that could be construed as allowing Global Partners to exceed the cap of railcars previously set by the Port of St. Helens Commission, and the answer was a resounding "no."
Since the amendment to the sublease was mostly to reflect change of ownership of the tank farm between PGE and Global Partners, I felt very comfortable supporting the resolution.
Now for a little background on the resolution:
After purchasing the ethanol plant and transloading facilities at Port Westward in Clatskanie in 2013, Global Partners realized it would require efficiency improvements to maximize productivity. On Aug. 23, 2014, Global presented their infrastructure improvement plan to the Port and a full house of interested community members at a public meeting at the Columbia River People's Utility District, and over the next week, local papers reported on the meeting.
One month later, on Sept. 24, The Port Commission voted on Resolution #2014-63 to support Global's efforts, including "an additional onsite pipeline, an increase number of rail unloading stations, increased storage" and various pipeline and dock improvements.
Since the resolution, Global has followed through by seeking a state air permit for new storage tanks and enhanced emissions reduction equipment, a federal and state permit to construct a new berth at the Port Westward dock, and various local, state and federal permits to construct the Hermo Road extension.
Each of those regulatory processes included public process and review, including a publicized and well-attended meeting at the Clatskanie High School in the winter of 2014.
Having obtained those permits, Global constructed a new berth at the Port's dock, built the Hermo Road extension, and installed a vapor combustion unit to capture and destroy emissions. Thus, investing nearly $20 million in public infrastructure, creating local construction jobs and reducing emissions … all part of the plans supported by the Port in 2014.
At the request of the Port, Global provides quarterly updates at public meetings on the progress of these efforts.
Perhaps now you can see why I was surprised at the inference that somehow the port did not want the public to know what we were up to.
As stated before, the request for the approval of the sublease amendment was simply to reflect Global's purchase of existing tanks at Port Westward rather than construct new ones. The sublease amendments we approved did not change the support we already provided in 2014, nor allow for more trains, yet some members of the public reacted as if this was new information. That simply is incorrect and misleading.
As your Port commissioner, it is my job to clearly understand the issues, to do my due diligence, and then vote accordingly. You may remember that one of my campaign promises was "to honor all existing agreements the Port had previously made." And that is what I am doing.
By the way, I'm still pursuing the promise I made to work towards suspending the Port property tax.
As for the length of the sublease, it will expire in 2065, in 48 years.
I, too, am interested in leaving a legacy for future generations. Not only a legacy of clean air, land and water, but also a legacy of truth, honor and integrity.