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Public Comment Ends Friday For Nation's Largest Proposed Oil Terminal

<p>Opponents of the proposed Vancouver Energy terminal dressed in red and held a rally during a recent hearing.</p>

Cassandra Profita

Opponents of the proposed Vancouver Energy terminal dressed in red and held a rally during a recent hearing.

Washington state ends public comment Friday on a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has taken public comment on the Vancouver Energy Project since November when it released its draft environmental impact statement.

The project is a joint venture backed by oil company Tesoro Corp. and logistics firm Savage Industries.

The agency is taking comments on its website until 11:59 p.m. Friday.

In the last month, the council also held three public hearings — two in Vancouver and one in Spokane – where hundreds of people turned out to provide testimony.

A spokeswoman for the agency said it will review the comments, which will help inform its analysis for the final Environmental Impact Statement.

Ultimately, the council will make a recommendation to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say on whether the project gets permitted.

Inslee has made reducing the effects of climate change and alternative energy projects a priority of his first term as governor. It's possible Inslee could be faced with deciding the project at the same time he's running for re-election.

If built, the project would the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country, capable of handling 360,000 barrels of crude oil daily.

The project would be constructed at the Port of Vancouver, on the banks of the Columbia River.

The crude oil would arrive at the port by train from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, before being shipped to refineries along the West Coast.

Some have expressed support for the project, arguing that southwest Washington needs the several hundred short-term and long-term jobs the project would bring to the region. Many others have said the project poses too great of risk and say they worry about train accidents or spills that could damage the environment.

The state is weighing the project as oil hits some of its lowest prices in more than a decade.

Tesoro-Savage has said despite the low price of oil, the West Coast still needs the project because there is not enough infrastructure to move oil along the West Coast.

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Conrad Wilson is a reporter and producer covering criminal justice and legal affairs for OPB.