The oil company Tesoro, a fast-growing Fortune 100 company, has announced plans to build and operate a massive oil shipping facility on the Columbia River in Washington. The Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal would handle up to 360,000 barrels of crude per day, transferring petroleum from mile-long trains onto oil tankers and other vessels that would ship the oil to refineries in the US and potentially overseas.
Many residents of Vancouver, Washington, as well as communities along the rail lines, are unwilling to accept the risks of Tesoro’s proposed project, given a string of oil train derailments and fires across North America. A thorough review of Tesoro’s track record suggests that the community has every reason to be concerned. The company has a demonstrated track record of flouting safety rules, injuring workers, polluting local air, and meddling in politics:
- “Willful” violations in Anacortes refinery fire: After a deadly 2010 refinery fire in Anacortes killed seven workers, state and federal investigators blasted Tesoro, calling the company “complacent” about safety and issuing 39 citations of “willful” indifference to hazards at the site.
- One facility, 4,000 clean air violations: The EPA says that Tesoro violated the Clean Air Act no fewer than 4,000 times at a single refinery in North Dakota and hundreds more times at other refinery locations. The company is among the top 100 toxic polluters nationally.
- Oil spills and secrecy: When a Tesoro pipeline burst in 2013, the company did not bother to inform the affected landowner, who only discovered the spill after he noticed crude oil bubbling six inches high around the tires of his combine.
- Hostility to safety investigators: Tesoro barred the gates to federal safety investigators after a burst pipe at a California refinery sprayed two workers in the face with sulfuric acid. Though the workers were helicoptered to a hospital and treated for burns, Tesoro called its employees’ injuries “minor.”
- Fights with unions over worker safety: Tesoro opposed union-supported efforts to have shareholders pressure the company into disclosing more information about its safety practices and risks.
- Meddling in politics: Tesoro already meddles in Washington politics, bankrolling political candidates and Tim Eyman-sponsored ballot initiatives with hundreds of thousands of dollars. In California, Tesoro spent $1.5 million on a measure that would have gutted environmental laws.
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