A political strategy which CSE helped advance has put a snag in the plans of a major Koch Brothers ally, Richard Kayne, in expanding Global Partners’ crude oil storage capacity by 1 million barrels in Clatskanie, OR.
The story starts in 2017, when Portland General Electric (PGE) sold its nine largely unused storage tanks 30 miles down the Columbia River from Portland, in Clatskanie, OR, to Global Partners, LP. Global Partners operates the Columbia Pacific Biorefinery and owns a terminal in Clatskanie, OR. Global Partners’ primary financier is Richard Kayne, a multi-billionaire private equity investor closely allied with the Koch Brothers’ political and financial networks, and a major Republican Party donor. (More in our report here.)
Ever since PGE and Global’s purchase and sale agreement took place, CSE and our grassroots allies have been strategizing on how best to ensure these tanks would not be used to store crude oil, as they once were and could be again. The transport of crude oil by rail– or so-called “bomb trains,” mile-long unit trains of highly volatile Bakken crude coming from the oil fields of North Dakota–endangers towns, cities, and communities all along the train routes. Once they arrive in Clatskanie, they are stored in tanks that are built on landfill in an earthquake subduction zone that would rapidly liquefy when (not if) a major earthquake hits the region. Once transloaded onto ships for export to refineries on the West Coast, this cargo must then be transported across the Columbia River bar, one of the most treacherous bars in the world, threatening a major oil spill in a region whose economy is largely reliant on fishing and tourism.
Although PGE’s sale of the tank farms to Global was later approved by the Oregon Public Utility Commission, the transaction was subject to additional conditions agreed to by the parties in the purchase and sale agreement. Refurbishing these tanks would have given Global Partners’ Port Westward terminal a highly sought after asset in the era of low oil prices, crude oil storage.
However, PGE recently reversed its path and the notice of termination reveals that grassroots advocacy and pressure on PGE paid off. PGE wrote in their notice of termination: “We are evaluating how to best move forward with the tank farm in alignment with our long-term decarbonization strategy and what’s in the best interest of our customers.”
While the facility is permitted to produce and transport ethanol on site, the withdrawal of the agreement between Global and PGE makes it uncertain whether Global Partners’ additional plans to transload crude oil can move forward at all. The cancellation may also make it more difficult for the company to receive crucial state air permits presently being considered by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.