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Crude Oil Operation to Continue in Portland

On Wednesday, the contentious oil-by-rail terminal in Portland industrial Northwest district was dealt another setback when a state agency denied its application for an air quality permit renewal. Following the city of Portland rejection to endorse such an action, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality proposed denial of Zenith Energy’s air quality permit renewal. In addition, the city’s Bureau of Development Services announced that it had denied certification for a land use compatibility statement, which the DEQ requires as part of its own air permit approval procedure.

According to the city bureau, Zenith Energy is not in line with Portland comprehensive plan and aspirations to lessen the city’s reliance on fossil fuels. Zenith has stated that it intends to appeal the city bureau’s decision. Zenith, a Texas-based asphalt company, bought the facility in 2017 and transformed it into a facility that transfers crude oil from freight-train tankers to shipping vessels, subsequently transporting the petroleum to refineries and other destinations.

Since the acquisition, Zenith has been operating under the air-quality permit provided by the DEQ to the asphalt firm. Zenith has announced that it will focus its activities on sustainable fuel alternatives such as plant-based biodiesel. However, elected politicians, climate campaigners, and environmental groups have all voiced their displeasure. The terminal’s role in transferring crude oil from the interior of North America to refineries and then to consumers who burn gasoline and diesel is one of the main issues voiced by opponents.

Climate change is being exacerbated by fossil fuels, which leads to more frequent and intense droughts, widespread wildfires, and extreme weather. Rep. Maxine Dexter, D-Portland was among many who applauded the municipal and state officials’ actions. State law makes it difficult for state agencies to approve or renew licenses like the one Zenith has pending with DEQ because of a local government’s conclusion that a type of land use is incompatible with its comprehensive plan.

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