VANCOUVER, Wash. — A critic of a proposed oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver has maintained a solid lead in a port commissioner race that may shape the project’s future.
Don Orange was leading Kris Greene with 64.6 percent of the vote Tuesday night in the Port of Vancouver race. With a second batch of ballots tallied Wednesday, Orange’s lead remained steady at 64.3 percent. Ballot counting will continue over the next several days.
The race has drawn more than $1 million in cash and in-kind contributions. It has been seen by some as a referendum on a $210 million project that would handle about 360,000 barrels of crude oil a day.
Orange, who is backed by environmental groups, said he would work to end the Port of Vancouver’s lease with Vancouver Energy.
Vancouver Energy and other project backers pumped $370,000, the bulk of cash contributions, to back Greene in the election.
The terminal has been the subject of heated debate in the Northwest. Project developers see it as an opportunity to link domestic crude oil from the Midwest to a West Coast port and bring jobs and money to the region.
Critics say it poses too great a risk to people and the environment, and the dangers extend well beyond the facility to include communities along rail lines.
The project would receive an average of four 1½-mile long crude oil trains a day. Oil would be stored on site then loaded onto tankers and ships bound for West Coast refineries.
Vancouver Energy has a 10-year lease at the deep-water port, but the lease allows for changes by either party every 90 days.
A state energy panel is currently reviewing the project. It will make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who will have the final say.
Orange received support from the Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund, while Greene was backed by Enterprise Washington Jobs, a political action committee whose top donors include Tesoro and BNSF Railway.