• WA Public Land Commissioner Denies Sublease for Milennium Coal Terminal

    Train unloading coal at Millennium terminal in June 2011

    Train unloading coal at Millennium terminal in June 2011


    The outgoing Washington State Public Lands Commissioner today announced his decision to deny Millennium Bulk Terminals’ sublease of state-owned land in Longview.

    Millennium Coal’s plan was to sublease the land from Northwest Alloys to build a controversial coal terminal in Longview.

    Commissioner Goldmark explained “The message of today is I’m taking steps to protect state-owned aquatic lands.  That’s part of my responsibility as commissioner of public lands.”

    From the Oregonian:

    The company was looking to build a terminal with the capacity to export 44 million tons of coal annually to buyers in Asia. That would have involved bringing some 16 coal trains a day down the Columbia River Gorge from Wyoming and Montana. Tribes, community members along the route, and conservationists weighed in by the thousands against the project, which was first proposed in 2010. But it also attracted some support from organized labor.

    The decision continues a winning streak for opponents of fossil fuel export terminals in the Northwest. Federal, state and local authorities have rejected more than a dozen proposals in Oregon and Washington to export coal, oil, natural gas and propane. There are still three proposals pending on the Columbia, including an oil export terminal in Vancouver and two methanol export terminals at the Port of Kalama and Port Westward near Clatskanie.

    “This is a huge victory for tribes and communities that have fighting this proposal for years,” said Lauren Goldberg, an attorney for the conservation group Columbia Riverkeeper. “It’s an exciting way to start the new year.”

    Millennium Bulk Terminals could not be reached for comment. There is no administrative process to appeal the decision, Goldberg said, though the company could sue the state.

    Read the full Oregonian article here: Washington to reject coal export terminal near Longview

  • Breaking: WA Supreme Court Unanimously Reinstates Pollution Control Hearings Board Decision to Protect Stormwater: State “Vesting” Law Cannot Undermine Clean Water Standards

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 29, 2016

    Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340, ext. 1025 jhasselman@earthjustice.org
    Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper, 206-297-7002 chris@pugetsoundkeeper.org

    WA Supreme Court:  Developers Can’t Evade Water Pollution Standards

    State high court unanimously overturns Court of Appeals to find that state “vesting” law does not apply to clean water standards

    Olympia, WA—In a major victory for clean water, the Washington State Supreme Court today unanimously rejected an effort by counties and developers to weaken a key permit designed to reduced toxic runoff and protect waterways including Puget Sound.

    State high court justices ruled unanimously that state “vesting” laws can’t undercut clean water standards that local governments must adopt as part of the federal Clean Water Act and parallel state laws.  Under state vesting laws, development projects can apply regulations in place at the time of the project application, even if they are not built for years or even decades later.  The vesting laws have been a major impediment to the implementation of critical standards that prevent sprawl and reduce pollution.

    Stormwater runoff is a toxic brew of rainwater that drains off streets, parking lots, and other hard surfaces carrying motor oil, pesticides, fertilizers, and other urban residues into nearby streams, rivers, and marine waters.  It is the major source of pollution in Puget Sound.

    “Today the Washington Supreme Court stood up for clean water,” said Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice attorney who, along with Janette Brimmer, represented Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Washington Environmental Council, and the Rosemere Neighborhood Association in the case. “Obsolete vesting laws don’t trump clean water, and Washington state will not fall behind in its ability to protect Puget Sound and its rivers and streams.”

    In rejecting the arguments by developers that the stormwater permits are subject to vesting laws, and overturning a divided Court of Appeals, the high court justices found that state vesting law is intended to limit the exercise of municipal discretion, not undercut federal and state laws intended to reduce pollution.  The high court’s ruling ends nearly a decade of legal wrangling over the Western Washington municipal stormwater permits, which, under a 2008 court ruling, require municipalities to integrate “low impact development” requirements into their development codes.

    “We applaud our state’s high court justices for limiting antiquated vesting laws that have represented a roadblock to clean water,” said Chris Wilke, Executive Director of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. “The days of taking advantage of the vesting loophole are over.  It’s time to move ahead with solving the problem of polluted stormwater runoff and recovering Puget Sound along with salmon, orcas and communities that rely on clean water.”

    “The ruling by our state’s high court justices is a victory for everyone.   Clean water is essential for the health of our communities, to support our vibrant economy, and protect our iconic yet endangered species: salmon and orca,” said Mindy Roberts, Washington Environmental Council’s People for Puget Sound Director.

    “We applaud the Washington high court panel for their ruling,” said John Felton, chairman of the Rosemere Neighborhood Association. “The justices gave us a wonderful gift—the gift of supporting clean water by closing harmful loopholes that allowed developers to lock in outdated standards. This is an outstanding way to start the new year!”


    Polluted runoff is the single-largest source of toxic pollution to Puget Sound. Thepollution kills salmon, damages shellfish beds and threatens our drinking-water supplies.

    Oral argument last October 13th before the state Supreme Court was the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of effort, starting with the challenge to the 2007 Municipal Stormwater General Permits.

    In 2008, in a challenge led by Puget Soundkeeper Alliance represented by Earthjustice, the state Pollution Control Hearings board (PCHB) overturned the state permits, and held that federal and state law required green infrastructure or “low impact development” (LID) approaches to new and redevelopment throughout Western Washington. Green infrastructure, like rain gardens, treats rainfall where it lands, keeping runoff out of the sewers and pollution out of Puget Sound. It is a highly effective, and cost-effective, approach to managing toxic runoff.

    The 2012 permit–which made LID mandatory in Western Washington for the first time–was issued after several years of technical and policy input from stakeholders, but was appealed by regulated municipalities and developers.  Puget Soundkeeper, WEC, and Rosemere Neighborhood Association, again represented by Earthjustice, intervened to defend the permits.

    In 2013, the PCHB rejected all of those legal challenges, and upheld the permit. King County, Snohomish County, and the Building Industry Association of Clark County sought appellate review of that decision on a single issue: whether the state vesting law allows developers to “lock in” outdated development standards for all time.  The PCHB had comprehensively ruled that standards issued under a stormwater permit are not subject to state vesting law.

    Last January, in a surprise 2-1 decision, the state Court of Appeals Division II, reversed the PCHB on the vesting issue.  It concluded that requirements to implement LID designs and other critical standards to protect water were “land use ordinances” subject to state vesting laws.

    Today, the state Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Court of Appeals Division II ruling and reinstated the PCHB decision, holding that the requirements of a state water pollution permit are not subject to state vesting law.  The decision settles a dispute that has spanned nearly a decade and provides a platform for Ecology to further improve water pollution technologies in the next iteration of permit expected in 2018.

    You can download a pdf version of this Press Release here: Earthjustice Stormwater Vesting WA Supremes Win Final Press Release

    Read the full Supreme Court Opinion here: Supreme Court No. 92805-3 – Snohomish County, et al., v. Pollution Control Hearings Board, et al Opinion

  • Portland City Council Passes Fossil Fuel Ban

    portland-oregonThe Portland City Council has become the first in the nation to pass a zoning ordinance banning fossil fuel storage facilities.

    Portland Mayor Charlie Hales called it “the first stone in a green wall across the West Coast”.

    Portland’s move has been praised by environmental groups, including Rosemere Neighborhood Association, with the hope that Portland be the first of many cities to ban future coal, oil and other fossil fuel facilities.

    You can read more information here from the Oregonian: Portland City Council bans new bulk fossil fuel terminals



  • Riverkeeper Celebrates 50th Anniversary with Lighting of Empire State Building

    Riverkeeper_logoWe congratulate our good friends at Riverkeeper.org on celebrating 50 years as New York’s clean water advocate protecting New York’s drinking water, the Hudson River and its tributaries!

    Commemorating the event, the Empire State Building will shine in Riverkeeper’s colors of deep blue, green, and light blue, this Wednesday evening, April 13.

    Here is a brief history of this pioneering organization, from their grass roots beginnings as Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, which paved the way for the massive Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper movements, and has inspired environmental advocates fighting for clean water all around the world:

    From Riverkeeper.org:

    Riverkeeper traces its origins back to March 1966, when a small group of recreational and commercial fishermen, concerned citizens and scientists gathered at a Westchester County American Legion Hall with the intent to reverse the decline of the Hudson River. They organized as the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, and dedicated themselves to tracking down the river’s polluters and bringing them to justice. Right from the start, the grassroots actions taken by the HRFA went against convention.

    While other organizations sought environmental justice through protests and civil disobedience, the HRFA sought to protect the Hudson through advocacy, science and the law. At the group’s core was a belief that everyday people should be able to defend our public resources from maltreatment and damage. The Fishermen’s actions to protect the water demonstrated that ordinary citizens had legal standing in protecting our natural resources. A long string of legal victories — which provided the HRFA with bounties for turning in polluters — funded the creation of the Riverkeeper program in 1983. Three years later, HRFA merged with Riverkeeper to form one group to protect the river.

    Since then, Riverkeeper has brought hundreds of polluters to justice and forced them to spend hundreds of millions of dollars remediating the Hudson. Over its long history, Riverkeeper has worked to restore the river from harmful PCBs, sought to protect aquatic life from pollution and ill-considered development, and has worked to close the aging, troublesome Indian Point nuclear power plant on the banks of the Hudson. Today Riverkeeper fights with thousands of citizen scientists and activists to reclaim the Hudson and ensure that over 9 million New Yorkers have clean, safe drinking water. The result: Pollution levels are down, and swimming and boating are back. Riverkeeper inspired the worldwide waterkeeper movement protecting tens of thousands of miles of rivers and coastlines on six continents.

    There are now 280 Riverkeeper groups on six continents, and the clean water movement continues to grow as the need for strong community advocacy has never been greater for protecting our waterways and watersheds.

    Congratulations Riverkeeper on 50 Years of Good Works!

  • BREAKING: Port of Vancouver Holds Oil Terminal Lease Amendment Public Hearing

    Crude Oil TrainsAs we have reported, this August 1st marks the deadline for the Port of Vancouver to renew the lease for the Tesoro Savage Oil Terminal.

    Tesoro Savage has approached the Port with a proposed 2-year extension to renew the lease prior to the August 1 deadline. The Port’s staff, although still on record supporting the Tesoro project, recommends against the lease renewal, citing growing concerns with the terminal moving forward.

    Port Commissioners will vote on the lease renewal on Friday April 15th and are holding a public hearing next Tuesday at Clark College to hear public testimony in advance of their vote on the lease renewal.

    A quite different slate of Port Commissioners will vote this time compared to those on the commission in 2013 when the lease was first approved after massive public opposition.  With the addition of Eric LaBrant last year, a staunch opponent to the terminal, the three Port Commissioners are now divided in their support.  Commissioner Brian Wolfe is also now voicing his own concerns with the Tesoro project.

    From the Columbian:

    Wolfe, who has become the three-member commission’s swing vote on the oil terminal lease changes, said he won’t make up his mind on his vote until after Tuesday’s daylong public hearing at Clark College’s Gaiser Hall. The commission expects to vote on the request on April 15.

    “My position today is I’m still going to listen to everybody next week and try to do at the end of the week what’s best for the Port of Vancouver,” said Wolfe, who backed the initial lease agreement.

    Eric LaBrant was not a member when the commission unanimously approved the original lease in 2013. But he won his seat on an anti-terminal platform, easily beating a staunch terminal supporter. Commissioner Jerry Oliver remains a supporter of the terminal.

    Rosemere Neighborhood Association encourages everyone to attend the Public Hearing this coming Tuesday; voice your opposition to the terminal; and urge the Port Commissioners to not only reject the lease renewal proposed by Tesoro Savage, but to cancel the lease outright.

    Read the Agenda for the Port’s April 12 Meeting, including the full Lease Amendment Proposal between the Port of Vancouver Tesoro Savage here: Agenda-and-documents-for-April-12-2016-Commission-Meeting.pdf

    Here are the Public Hearing details:

    Oil Terminal Lease Amendment Public Hearing:

    •  Tuesday, 9:30 AM to 9:00 PM, Doors open 8:00 AM. Public testimony will begin after the Port’s regular business meeting, with speakers chosen by lottery.
    • Gaiser Hall, Clark College, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver

    Port Commission decision:

    • Friday, 1 p.m. April 15, the commissioners will make a decision on the lease amendment. No public comment will be taken.




  • Update: New Hurdles for Proposed Oil Terminal

    WA State Supreme Court
    Our friends at Columbia Riverkeeper, Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC), and Sierra Club learned this week that the Washington State Supreme Court will review the previous lower court rulings in their lawsuit  challenging the Port of Vancouver’s closed-door meetings in 2013 during the port’s initial consideration of the Tesoro Savage Oil Terminal lease.

    If they are successful, and win at the Supreme Court level, the potential result could be the court voiding the current lease agreement.

    From the Columbian:

    “If we were to prevail at the Supreme Court, we believe the remedy the court should give us is voiding the lease and asking the Port of Vancouver to make a new decision on the lease in light of the information in a final environmental impact statement,” said attorney Miles Johnson with Columbia Riverkeeper.

    That is not the only challenge facing the Port’s lease agreement. As the deadline looms for the Port to confirm the terminal lease this summer on August 1st, Port Commissioner Brian Wolfe is re-thinking his support for the project:

    Late Thursday, Commissioner Brian Wolfe told The Columbian that he hadn’t made up his mind about how he might cast another vote.

    “Am I prepared to make a decision on it? No,” Wolfe said. “I honestly don’t know; there are so many variables to consider.”

    Wolfe’s uncertainty turns what was a 3-0 decision nearly three years ago into a big maybe.

    “It was and will remain a really hard decision between economic development and the environment, in my mind,” Wolfe said.

    The other two Port Commissioners are divided; Jerry Oliver is expected to re-affirm his support for the terminal, and Eric Labrant,  the newest commissioner, is a longtime opponent to the project, so Wolfe’s vote could sway the lease vote this summer.

    And just this past week, local elected officials have teamed up to submit op-ed pieces to two major regional newspapers slamming the proposed Tesoro Savage Oil Terminal.

    Aisha Topper, Vancouver City Councilmember, and Amanda Fritz who serves on Portland City Council penned a letter to Washington Governor Inslee in The Oregonian on February 25 titled Washington governor must save Portland, Vancouver from giant oil terminal (OPINION). It begins by stating the two cities “stand together in opposing the largest proposed oil terminal in North America.”

    Vancouver Councilmember Bart Hanson, who has led the city’s opposition to the terminal, teamed up in a letter with Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart submitted to February 27 Spokesman-Review Vancouver oil terminal is a dangerous plan.”

    Their messages could not be clearer – they urge Washington State Governor Inslee to stand up for citizens and deny the Tesoro Savage Oil Terminal.


  • Not Again? New Oregon Senate Bill Revives Talk of New Bridge

    The Oregonian reported today that a bill before the Oregon State Senate proposes increased bond measures for TriMet and allow Tri-Met to use funds on non-transit projects.

    To many, this could be a round-about way to re-open the defeated Columbia River Crossing Project.

    From the Oregonian:

    It could also let TriMet package its major transit projects with road projects that have wide appeal, a strategy that led Seattle voters to pass a record $930 million transportation-funding levy.

    In Oregon, the bill has reawakened critics of the Columbia River Crossing, including Joe Cortright, a Portland economist who has long opposed the bridge project.

    “What the bill does is greatly expand TriMet’s bonding authority, authorizing it to accept IOUs from other agencies and then use that authority to build freeways, if they choose,” Cortright said. “My concern is that this could be a stealth funding plan for the Columbia River Crossing.”

    Tri-Met officials deny they are pursuing any revival of a new bridge project. “The bill and the CRC simply have nothing to do with each other,” said General Manager Neil McFarlane in a letter to the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means directly addressing the issue.

    We’ll be watching this issue for new developments.

  • Vancouver Oil Terminal: Make Your Voice Heard

    You have several ways to still submit comments about the DEIS for the proposed Tesoro-Savage Oil Terminal at the Port of Vancouver:

    COMMENT AND REVIEW PERIOD: The public comment period ends on January 22, 2016.

    You can submit your comments using one of the following methods:

    Submit by Mail:

    State of Washington
    Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council
    P.O. Box 43172
    Olympia, WA 98504

    Submit Online:


    Submit In-Person:

    At a public meeting (orally or in writing):

    Vancouver, WA

    January 12, 2016, 5:00 PM – 11PM or last speaker
    Clark County Event Center at the Fairgournds
    Hall B
    17402 NE Delfel Road
    Ridgefield, WA 98642

    Spokane Valley, WA

    January 14, 2016, 5:00 PM – 11PM or last speaker
    Centerplace Regional Event Center
    2426 N. Discovery Place
    Spokane Valley, WA 99216

  • Tesoro-Savage Oil Terminal Public Hearings

    Crude Oil TrainsThe Tesoro-Savage Draft Environmental Impact Statement has now been released.  You can read the Draft Environmental Impact Statement here.

    Here are the upcoming Tesoro-Savage Oil Terminal Public Hearings where you can learn more and voice your objections:

    • Clark County:
      Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016
      Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds, Hall B
      17402 NE Delfel Road Ridgefield, WA 98642.
    • Spokane:
      January 7, 2016, 5:00-11:00PM. *date subject to change
      Centerplace Regional Event Center
      2426 N. Discovery Place
      Spokane Valley, WA 99216

    Columbia Riverkeeper is holding a workshop to review the DEIS and plans for hearings:

    • Oil Train Workshop: Build towards the Big Hearing
      Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, 6:30pm
      International Longshore and Warehouse Union Hall
      1205 Ingalls St. Vancouver, WA 98660.
      You can RSVP for the workshop here:
  • Gov. Inslee Directs WA Department of Ecology to Draft New Water Quality Rules

    Washington-StateSealWashington Governor Jay Inslee announced Thursday he is directing the WA Department of Ecology to draft new water quality regulations in order to comply with an order from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

    In September, the EPA told the state it would issue federal rules on Washington’s water quality if the state did not act.

    Inslee’s announcement prompts the WA agency to draft new rules in order to preserve its decision-making process and would allow the state to avoid further federal regulation of industry and local governments responsible for reducing water pollution.

    Gov. Inslee explained:

    “My goal all along has been to update Washington’s clean water rule with one that assures the health of Washington’s people, fish and economy,” Inslee said.  “The number one thing I hear over and over when talking with people is how critical it is that we maintain control over creation of this rule to ensure that we’re protecting human health while providing businesses and local governments sensible tools to comply with the stricter standards.”

    To view the entire press release, go to the governor’s website at http://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee-announces-new-path-water-quality-rule-continues-work-broader-toxics-reduction

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