December 4, 2017
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'Chilling effect on business' after state panel recommends against Vancouver Energy project



After a four-year review process that by law was supposed to take just one year, the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Committee (EFSEC) has voted against the proposed Vancouver Energy project. This oil terminal project would reduce American dependence on foreign oil and bring new jobs to Southwest Washington by moving up to 360,000 barrels of crude oil from the U.S. interior to West Coast refineries.

The EFSEC regulators last week voted unanimously to recommend that Gov. Jay Inslee deny the project. The company, a joint venture of Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) and Savage Services, said this about the ruling:

"We are extremely disappointed, especially after a review of more than four years in a process that state law says should take one year. EFSEC has set an impossible standard for new energy facilities based on the risk of incidents that the Final Environmental Impact Statement characterizes as extremely unlikely. The FEIS confirmed that construction and normal operation of the facility would have no significant unavoidable impacts that cannot be mitigated. This decision sends a clear anti-development message that will have a chilling effect on business in the state of Washington."

Leaders in labor and agriculture said the EFSEC ruling will have far-reaching negative effects.

The Daily News editorial board echoed that sentiment: “An interesting part of this story is that the EFSEC is mandated to finish its study and give a recommendation within a 12-month time period. It took the EFSEC more than four years to review the Vancouver oil terminal project. Does this sound familiar? A state agency dragging its feet on any project it doesn’t want to approve? Much like the decisions against Millennium Bulk Terminals and the Kalama methanol project, it appears ‘politics over policy’ is the norm in the state of Washington.”

The ruling will go far beyond energy projects, even hitting the state's vital agricultural sector, which depends on a robust export infrastructure, said John Stuhlmiller, CEO of the Washington Farm Bureau: "We can’t continue down this path and expect to be the most trade-dependent state in the nation if we are not willing to invest in new infrastructure projects."

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said he felt sorry for the union workers who would have gotten high-paying jobs, and for the other community members who would have benefitted.

"What we are seeing is an attempt by urban special interest groups to realign our state. Instead of seeing us as part of the Pacific Northwest, sharing our interests with Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Alaska, they are drawing a big blue line around a West Coast nature preserve where cities like L.A., San Francisco, Portland and Seattle lord it over everyone else," Sheldon said.

For more on this issue, contact AWB Government Affairs Director Mary Catherine McAleer.



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Filling all those hands-on jobs means we must rethink not only how we close the skills gap, but also the "interest gap" for the next generation of builders, welders and makers.

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I recently traveled to Switzerland with the governor and a group of business leaders and education experts from across the state to look at the country's successful and robust apprenticeship programs, which are geared toward engaging 16-19-year-olds in meaningful work.

In the Swiss system, young apprentices can easily shift career paths or seek higher education after earning their initial training diploma. It's focused on options and opportunities -- right after graduation and into the future. I heard from several young people who said they were "finished" with the classroom by ninth grade and eager to work with their hands...

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