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Originally published Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 4:31 PM

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Guest: The economy needs oil trains

The Vancouver project to transport crude from trains to ships would create jobs and help the economy, writes guest columnist Harley Franco.

Special to The Times

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This terminal is being built to export our crude abroad as soon as the oil companies can buy the political votes to do... MORE
I appreciate the tone of Mr. Franco's pitch, and that he is very transparent about his personal stake in the petroleum... MORE
Nice try jigbobby but no, that's the propaganda being spread by people who don't want to acknowledge that our economy... MORE


THE militant takeover at Iraq’s largest refinery and ongoing instability in other oil-producing areas in Russia and Venezuela illustrate the importance of developing domestic sources of crude oil to move the U.S. toward energy independence.

An energy distribution terminal proposed by Tesoro and Savage companies for Vancouver, Wash., would provide essential infrastructure to make this happen. North American crude would come by rail to the terminal at the Port of Vancouver to be stored and then loaded onto ships for transport to U.S. West Coast refineries. This domestic oil could displace approximately one-third of foreign imports to the West Coast.

Crude oil has been shipped by rail from oil fields to refineries in relative safety for many years. But a dramatic increase in volume being sent by rail and high-profile accidents in other parts of the country have prompted some, including members of the Seattle City Council, to call for a moratorium on rail transport of crude.

That is impractical and would hurt our economy. The more responsible approach is to focus on how to increase safety on our rail network and support projects that have a commitment to safety and offer a net benefit to this state.

The Vancouver project would create hundreds of family-wage jobs, boost the Northwest economy and maritime industry, and provide stable energy supplies for businesses and employees in all sectors of the economy who need gas, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products to perform their jobs every day.

As chairman of one of the largest maritime petroleum-transportation companies in the country, I support the Vancouver project because of the real needs it would meet and many benefits it would provide.

In my view, the increased focus on the need for safe rail transportation of petroleum and Washington’s rigorous environmental and regulatory processes can help ensure this project is done right and that it becomes a major asset for the entire state.

My company, Harley Marine Services, operates in all major West Coast ports, Alaska, New York and the Gulf Coast. We transport petroleum products for all major oil companies, provide ship assist, tanker escort and other services, and safely manage a small tank farm on the Willamette River. Our Harbor Island headquarters in Seattle is LEED Gold certified, and is one of the greenest buildings in the state. We know that safety and stellar environmental practices are essential in the oil industry.

For its part, Tesoro has safely operated a smaller facility at the Port of Vancouver transferring refined fuel products from trains and pipelines to barges and trucks for 29 years without a single reportable spill or injury, the company said.

Vancouver is the ideal location for the new terminal — the closest deep-water port and most direct rail connection from North Dakota to the West Coast. A large terminal in Vancouver is also a safer alternative to a number of smaller terminals that, because of size, would escape review by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council and Gov. Jay Inslee.

The $190 million Vancouver terminal would create 120 permanent family-wage jobs, 250 construction jobs and sustain thousands of other jobs dependent on petroleum products. All vessels serving the terminal would be U.S.-built and flagged, double-hull ships operated by highly trained pilots licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Alternative energy sources are important, but it’s clear the region will need petroleum products to drive the Northwest economy for decades.

Tesoro-Savage, the railroad, other affected businesses, communities and regulators all need to work together to ensure the Vancouver terminal is developed and operated with full attention to safety and environmental protection. It can and should be done.

Too often people come up with 50 reasons why something can’t be done. Washington state needs the jobs and other benefits of this project. All of us who care about this economy should encourage the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to recommend that Inslee approve it.

Harley Franco is chairman and CEO of Harley Marine Services, a Seattle-based marine transportation company.

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