Pamplin Media Group – Oregon Legislature Clears Fuel Tank Safety Planning Bill
Most of the state’s liquid fuel is stored along 6 miles of unstable soil along the Willamette River in Portland.
The Oregon legislature approved a bill to stimulate planning around the impact of a major earthquake on fuel stored along 6 miles of the Willamette River in northwest Portland.
Senate Bill 1567 goes to Governor Kate Brown after the House votes 50-7 on Friday, March 4. The Senate passed the bill earlier in the week, 23-2.
The bill would require owners to assess how vulnerable their storage tanks were to a major earthquake off the Oregon coast — the last earthquake of this magnitude was on January 26, 1700, and occurred at approximately 230-year intervals — and what they could have done to reduce the risks. These plans are due to be submitted by the Environmental Quality Department by June 1, 2024. The Environmental Quality Division, through the Environmental Quality Committee, will establish rules and a time frame for putting safety measures in place.
The bill would also require the Department of Energy to develop a security plan to prepare for an earthquake, protect communities and align with Oregon’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases by 90% by 2050.
“It’s the first step in the long-awaited set of actions needed to prepare this case for an inevitable disaster that we know is on our way,” said Representative Dacia Graeber, D-Tigard, a Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue firefighter.
“You know I’m not a woman of few words. But for the sake of time… I leave you with these few words: Big tank, big jolt, big boom—too bad.”
Study paid bill
Senator Michael Dembrow, a Portland Democrat, introduced the bill after a study commissioned by Multnomah County and the city of Portland concluded that a spill from the largest pool of fuel tanks in Oregon could result in an environmental disaster on par with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil explosion in the Gulf of Mexico . The area contained about 90% of Oregon’s gasoline and diesel prior to statewide fuel distribution, and all jet fuel used at Portland International Airport.
Many of these tanks were built long before current seismic standards took effect. They sit on an unstable river fill which would likely give way to a severe earthquake in a process called liquefaction.
Dembro compared the potential for damage to the Willamette and Columbia Rivers to the Deepwater Horizon, the largest in the country to date, and what happened in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.
The February 7 report was prepared by ECONorthwest, and the county and city apportioned the $100,000 cost.
Storage tanks are located in an area known as the center of critical energy infrastructure.
“We are 100 years late for a major earthquake in the Cascadia subduction zone,” Dimbro said. “Any spill or explosion at a CEI center would pose a serious threat to workers, firefighters, other first responders, frontline communities, fish and other natural resources. It has been described as a disaster by order of Fukushima and Deepwater Horizon combined. We cannot ignore this problem any longer.”
The entire 6-mile stretch is within the District of Representative Maxine Dexter, a Democrat from northwest Portland who is also a physician at Kaiser Permanente. She said that in addition to the negative effects on the environment, the spill would affect people both inside and outside her area.
“A plume of toxic gas of the size we see from a disaster will travel in the wind, with immediate and long-term health effects,” she said.
“As a pulmonologist, I know the damage that occurs when there is a modest level of smoke in the air. The impact of such a massive event is frankly unimaginable. The successful passage of this policy could save the lives of thousands of my constituents.”
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