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Washington state is scheduled to release a detailed environmental assessment Tuesday of the proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline last week because of environmental concerns, but the decision may not be enough to keep Canada’s controversial tar sand oil locked in the ground.

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

If you run into an oil man in a bar, you might want to buy him a drink. It’s been a bit of a tough week for the business. It was the end of the line for the Keystone XL pipeline, and possibly the beginning of big trouble for ExxonMobil concerning what it knew when about climate change.

After posting a gain of around $4 billion in the second quarter of 2015, Royal Dutch Shell says it lost more than $7.4 billion in the third quarter. Lower oil prices played a role, as did the costs Shell incurred when it shut down large-scale projects.

Faced with crude oil prices that have now been slumping for more than a year, Shell and other oil big companies are restructuring their businesses and cutting costs.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports:

Vancouver Port Candidates Differ On Oil Terminal

Oct 22, 2015

Voters in Vancouver, Washington, will elect a new port commissioner next month. The results could affect the future of a proposed oil terminal.

The terminal, called the Vancouver Energy Project, has deeply divided the region. And it has defined the race for the next Port of Vancouver commissioner.

This year, tens of thousands of dollars have poured into an election that since 2009 has traditionally seen candidates running unopposed.

The Environmental Protection Agency released new rules Tuesday requiring better monitoring and control of air emissions from oil refineries, including five operating in Washington.

Refineries are being targeted by the new rules in part because they emit volatile organic chemicals, greenhouse gases and the carcinogenic compound benzene.

Shell announced Monday it will seal and abandon the test well it drilled in Alaska's Chukchi Sea, and end its offshore exploration in the Arctic for the foreseeable future.

The company cited high costs, challenging federal regulations and poor results from a test well.

Shell Oil's Polar Pioneer left the Port of Seattle for Alaska on the morning of June 15, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Brian Gregory

Ross Reynolds speaks with Seattle Times economics columnist Jon Talton about how Shell Oil's decision to stop off-shore arctic oil drilling might affect Western Washington. Also, they talk about how Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the Seattle area could affect the economy long-term.

Shell's Polar Pioneer was greeted by dozens of protesting kayakers when it arrived in Seattle this spring.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Environmentalist are celebrating Shell’s decision to stop oil exploration off Alaska’s northern coast indefinitely, but the immediate future of the company’s base at the Port of Seattle is unclear.

Waterside Energy announced Wednesday plans to expand its proposed energy project in the Columbia River town of Longview, Washington.

In addition to a crude oil refinery, the company now wants to build a $450 million transload facility for liquid propane and butane gas, also known as LPG for liquified petroleum gas.

One unit train – about 115 tank cars long – would arrive from Canada at the facility every day, Waterside Energy CEO Lou Soumas said.

“Then loading it on gas carrier to go to the Asian markets,” he said. “The customer base is export.”

The Washington State Department of Ecology has just released its draft environmental review of two proposed oil terminals on the Washington coast. A third proposed terminal has not yet begun the environmental review process.

The terminals could be built in Grays Harbor, near Aberdeen, doubling current vessel and train traffic levels there.

The state's review found that traffic delays at railroad crossings in the nearby communities of Hoquiam and Aberdeen would increase significantly.

An energy company wants to build a transfer terminal in Longview, Washington that could handle liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil, according to documents reviewed Friday by OPB.

The project is an expansion on an already proposed oil refinery for Longview.

The documents were obtained by Columbia River Keeper through a public records request. They describe an “off-load and transfer terminal” at the Port of Longview that could handle up to two unit trains per day.

The Oregon Transportation Commission adopted new rules Friday requiring railroads to increase the amount of information they share with state officials. Months in the making, the rules come in response to concerns over the state’s readiness for oil train spills and fires.

Emergency responders will now get immediate notification from railroads for incidents involving hazardous materials. Those notifications include information about the type, quantity and placement of any materials on the train.

Foss Maritime tugs pull the Polar Pioneer past downtown Seattle on the way to Terminal 5 on Thursday, May 14, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Shell’s Polar Pioneer, briefly a resident at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5,  is drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea. The question is whether the rig can return to Seattle this fall -- and whether it can stay the winter. 

The Port of Seattle and Foss Maritime Co. are appealing a city decision to try to stop the rig. A city examiner is hearing arguments about what should happen next.

Delayed Shell Icebreaker Arrives In Arctic

Aug 12, 2015

Shell’s wayward icebreaker made it to the company’s Arctic Ocean drilling site Tuesday. The arrival of the Fennica after a month’s delay means the company could get to drill for oil beneath the Chukchi Sea this summer.

Currently, Shell only has permission to do shallower drilling into non-oil-bearing rocks off Alaska’s northwest coast.

With the Fennica steaming toward the Arctic, Shell submitted an application to the Interior Department on Thursday for permission to drill into deeper, oil-bearing rocks.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it has notified five Greenpeace protesters they are being fined $5,000 each for interfering with the safe operation of a vessel, during their effort to blockade a Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker in Portland for repairs.

The protesters facing the fines include three who dangled on lines below the St. John's bridge for 40 hours, and two support staff who were on the deck of the bridge.

The violations have been referred to a Coast Guard hearing office in Virginia. The protesters have the right to appeal.

Update 5:59 p.m.: The Shell icebreaker, Fennica, has cleared the St. Johns Bridge and has moved past the protestor blockade to continue on the Willamette River.

Reporter Amelia Templeton was at the scene as the ship crossed under the bridge. Protesters weighed down the nearby docks, yelling "Stop the boat!" as the Fennica moved by. Templeton said the ship appeared so close to the protestors paddling nearby that they could have reached out and touched it as it passed.

Portland Mayor On Bridge Activists: 'Protests Are Helpful'

Jul 30, 2015

For more than 24 hours, protesters with the environmental group Greenpeace have suspended from ropes below Portland's St. Johns Bridge like spiders hanging by a thread, blocking the passage of the Fennica, an icebreaker that is key to Shell's Arctic oil exploration plans.

A judge in Alaska has ruled that Greenpeace will be fined $2,500 for each hour the protesters remain in place. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Portland Police Bureau have not made any attempts to remove them.

A standoff continued Thursday on the Willamette River between environmental group protesters and a multinational energy company in Portland. Protesters suspended from the St. Johns Bridge and in kayaks on the water essentially blocked the Shell icebreaker, Fennica, from leaving for oil exploration in the Arctic.

The Fennica moved north along the river with the U.S. Coast Guard enforcing a safety zone, petty officer George Degener said.

Clark County Judge David Gregerson ruled Friday that port leaders in Vancouver, Washington didn’t violate state laws in 2013 when they negotiated a lease for an oil terminal.

The lease between Tesoro-Savage companies and the port remains in place. If built, the terminal project could ship 360,000 barrels of oil daily from the port to refineries along the West Coast.

Since 2009, elections for a seat on the Port of Vancouver commission have been relatively low-key affairs. Candidates who ran for a six-year term on the three-member board that oversees the port have won their elections unopposed in the last three races.

That was then.

Now, a proposed energy project at the port has sparked interest in a race for an open seat on the commission, turning the primary election into a hotly-contested race.

The federal government's new rules aimed at preventing explosive oil train derailments are sparking a backlash from all sides.

The railroads, oil producers and shippers say some of the new safety requirements are unproven and too costly, yet some safety advocates and environmental groups say the regulations aren't strict enough and still leave too many people at risk.

Dean Smith, who retired from the NSA, now tracks oil trains. He has gotten more information to the state in one week than oil companies have in three years.
EarthFix/KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

EVERETT, Wash. – Dean Smith, 72, sits in his car by the tracks north of Seattle.

It’s a dark, rainy Tuesday night, and Smith waits for an oil train to come through town. These trains are distinctive: A mile long, they haul 100 or so black, pill-shaped cars that each carry 30,000 gallons of crude oil.

Shell Oil's Polar Pioneer left the Port of Seattle for Alaska on the morning of June 15, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Brian Gregory

Protesters in kayaks dogged Royal Dutch Shell’s huge oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer as it sailed out of Seattle’s Elliott Bay early Monday on a long voyage to the Arctic Ocean.

Dozens used kayaks to form lines in front of the 300-foot-tall rig as it left under heavy Coast Guard escort.

The Clean Energy Governor And The Columbia River Oil Refinery

Jun 7, 2015

A new oil refinery is the last thing you might expect Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's administration to be courting. After all, Inslee has developed a national reputation as a champion of curbing the use of fossil fuels.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — has led to widespread pollution of drinking water. The oil industry and its backers welcome the long-awaited study, while environmental groups criticize it.

The Polar Pioneer and hundreds of kayaking protesters on Seattle's Duwamish Waterway on May 16, 2015.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Shell Oil has rejected state officials' position that parking an Arctic oil rig at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5 violates the state constitution.

Shell's Polar Pioneer rig has been at the port since mid-May. Its arrival in environmentally-minded Seattle has sparked protest and government scrutiny at various levels.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

State officials said Friday that it's unconstitutional for Shell Oil to store its Arctic drilling rig at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5.

The Polar Pioneer oil rig in Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Marcie Sillman talks to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray about the Shell Arctic drilling rig newly docked at the Port of Seattle.

Tesoro Announces Rail Car Upgrades

May 19, 2015

Oil company Tesoro announced Monday it’s upgrading the fleet of tank cars it uses to carry crude oil by rail.

The company moves crude oil by train through the Pacific Northwest to its refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

Officials with the company said it will add 210 “enhanced” tank cars. According to Tesoro executives, the new tank cars exceed federal standards announced earlier this month.

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