I have lived about a half mile from the Kinder Morgan Eugene Terminal (which used to only be publicly advertised as Jerry Brown Co) here on Prairie Road in Eugene since I was in second grade. I attended Irving Elementary in the Bethel School District through fifth grade. My family and I never questioned the terminal or how it operates. But once I became an adult, I realized the huge risk that deregulated railways are and how much fuel rolls by our home every day. I personally became concerned about the safety and health of our community. There are six schools within a five-mile radius. Three elementary schools, Irving, Spring Creek and Malabon; two middle schools, Shasta and Cascade; and one high school, Willamette.
The terminal’s specifications are 34.3 total acres, 42 refined petroleum products tanks. Total storage capacity is 708,125 barrels. Oil comes in from Portland via Kinder Morgan Energy Partner’s Eugene 8-inch pipeline. Kinder Morgan operates the only oil sands pipeline serving the West Coast of Canada, according to its website, and also has sought to export coal from the Northwest.
However, on the Kinder Morgan website for the Eugene Terminal, the company highlights their efforts at storing and distributing bio diesel. I am certain this is only a “green wash” tactic to distract the public from the very toxic, extremely flammable fuel that is being stored and moved through our neighborhood. There are very few pictures of the inside of the terminal, and none that explain in detail to the public what kind of dangerous operations may be taking place in our community. Is there even a safety evacuation plan for my neighborhood? If so, do any of the tax-paying residents know what that plan looks like?
In my 15 years in this neighborhood, I cannot remember our family even having one evacuation drill.
I have heard the story of Lac Megantic, Quebec. The train that derailed carrying fracked Bakken Shale crude, incinerated the town and killed 47 people. Many have speculated that this is due to the relinquishment of regulatory authority from the Canadian government to the rail corporations. These rail corporations in Canada and the U.S. essentially regulate themselves and cut many corners at the expense of public safety
When I heard about the proposed Tesoro Savage oil export terminal in Vancouver, Wash., and was informed that this same oil that burnt a hole in the center of the town in Quebec, has been railed through the Columbia River Gorge — where I as a Native American hold treaty right — and I knew in my heart that this was wrong, that I must say something. Being a treaty rights holder means that I have a responsibility, an obligation, to take care of my home and community, to protect it from appropriators, according to my elders and ancient family lineage.
According to an article on the Port of Vancouver, Wash., website, the port announced Oct. 22 that its board of commissioners unanimously voted to approve a 10-year lease with the Tesoro Savage Petroleum Terminal for a crude oil handling facility at the port. This article also states, “The lease approved during this meeting was the same document that was approved by the commission on July 23, 2013. A new vote was placed on the Oct. 22 agenda in light of concerns brought to the port’s attention about procedures used during a July 22 workshop leading up to the prior vote. The concerns raised were focused on the port’s use of executive session during the workshop.”
Since 1855, my ancestors have held an agreement with the U.S. government, which relinquished 10 million acres of our homelands to the U.S., in exchange for our 600,000-acre “Warm Springs Reservation.” This government-to-government agreement granted settler immigrants residency and the chance to establish the U.S. government and its smaller state governments within our homelands. This agreement also promised that we would forever be able to utilize the lands we once roamed.
The Port of Vancouver and its commissioners have completely disregarded what is referred to as “supreme law of the land,” the Mid-Columbia Treaty, ratified in 1859. The port commission has violated federal and international aboriginal treaty law by not even consulting treaty rights holders to the Columbia River before unanimously granting a 10-year permit for the Tesoro Savage Petroleum Terminal. There are four Columbia River treaty tribes that have all signed a resolution in opposition to this type of destructive industry on our river: The Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, Yakama Nation, Nez Perce Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs of Oregon. We have publicly stated that we will not allow any shortcuts during any of these processes.
The public has been told Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state has the final say in whether this terminal will be constructed. But the truth is, this is a federal and international violation issue and the state of Washington has no authority to permit such a facility without at least proper consultation with treaty rights holders, and the public has the final say. And we say no to the Tesoro Savage Petroleum Terminal. From extraction to export, there is no compromise, no question. The anticipated profits will never be worth putting the public at risk.
Kayla Godowa-Tufti is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs of Oregon.