The small city of Vancouver, Washington, sits just a few miles north of Portland and may be best known in Seattle as the “Wait you mean Canada? No, we mean Washington” city.
But this election season, Big Oil is pouring some big money into a Vancouver port commissioner race in order to build a massive oil terminal that could yield some potentially devastating environmental consequences for the region.
Basically, massive Texas oil company Tesoro (which made $24.6 billion in revenues last year) wants to build Vancouver Energy, an oil train facility that would handle up to 360,000 barrels-per-day—oil shipped in from the Bakken fields and out to various oil refineries all along the coast. If built, it would be the largest crude-by-rail terminal in the country.
The Tesoro facility has faced serious opposition from environmental groups, a port workers union, and members of Vancouver City Council. And even though all the other fossil fuel projects proposed for the state in the last few years—like the coal terminal at Cherry Point and the oil terminal proposed in Grays Harbor—have been struck down, Tesoro sure seems determined to nail this one.
They’ve poured in at least $370,000 into candidate Kris Greene’s port commissioner campaign in the form of direct donations from Tesoro, Vancouver Energy, and related affiliate companies. According to the Sightline Institute, it’s “far and away the largest corporate donation in the history of Vancouver’s port and the largest direct donation to any candidate in all of Washington in 2017.”
And that’s not all—a former campaign strategist of Greene’s said that Vancouver Energy’s donations came with a specific set of directions on how that money should be spent and what the campaign’s message should be.
“Big Oil is completely dictating where every penny is going,” the former strategist said. So, it looks like Greene, while not "going green,” is all about the green.
And here’s a fun fact: because Vancouver has under 200,000 registered voters (and unlike the port races in Seattle and Tacoma), there’s no limit on the amount of campaign contributions that can go into this race.
So far, two of the three port commissioners support Tesoro’s project, so the fate of the terminal could very well hinge on the outcome of this election. Greene’s opponent, Don Orange (Orange is the new green?) who strongly opposes the terminal, has made it the main focus of his campaign.
If elected, Orange would undoubtedly join with current port commissioner Eric LaBrant to cancel the port’s lease with Vancouver Energy. So far, he’s only raised about a third of the campaign funds that Greene has gotten from Vancouver Energy—dirty money, Orange says.
“I think he’s absolutely bought and paid for,” Orange said of his opponent in a recent interview with OPB. “If this works, and they’re able to buy a Port commissioner this way, it will change politics on this end of the state forever.”