Current regulations in Portland allow for unlimited growth of fossil fuel terminals. The Fossil Fuel Terminal Zoning Amendments restrict the development of new fossil fuel storage tanks and the expansion of tank capacity at existing bulk fossil fuel terminals. The existing bulk fossil fuel terminals in Portland are “limited uses” that can continue to operate. No new bulk fossil fuel terminals are allowed.
Bulk fossil fuel terminals are characterized by marine, railroad, or pipeline transport access; transloading facilities (such as rail-to-ship loading); or transloading facilities with storage capacity exceeding 2 million gallons.
- Fossil fuels include petroleum products (such as crude oil and gasoline), coal, natural gas, and propane, as well as methanol, which is produced from natural gas.
City Council voted to adopt the ordinance on Dec. 18, 2019. The ordinance was subsequently appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeal (LUBA) by the Western States Petroleum Association, Portland Business Alliance, Oregon Business and Industry, and Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council.
LUBA remanded the case back to City Council for additional findings and policy interpretations. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has completed their findings to address:
- The future demand for petroleum and natural gas.
- Portland’s comparative economic advantages.
- Potential impacts to the city’s multimodal transportation system.
- The role FFTs play in serving other businesses in the area.
Why is this important?
- Climate action goals – Fossil fuels are major contributors to climate change and pollution. The City’s Climate Emergency Declaration seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with fossil fuels being the largest source of emissions. The zoning code changes allow for increased capacity to support the transition to low-carbon renewable fuels.
- Public safety and environmental protection – Several recent accidents across the nation involving fossil fuel distribution highlight public safety risks in cities and environmental risks along rivers. The fossil fuel terminals are located in moderate-to-high liquefaction areas, making them susceptible in a major earthquake. The zoning code changes help limit the future risk of damage in the event of a catastrophe.
- Oregon’s industrial center – Portland is Oregon’s largest, most diverse distribution hub, and existing Portland petroleum terminals handle more than 90% of the fossil fuel consumed in Oregon and SW Washington. The code changes restrict the expansion of the existing facilities in Portland; however, they allow these terminals to continue to operate and reinvest in safer facilities as Oregon transitions away from fossil fuels to more renewable energy sources.
Project steps and timeline
In response to the remand, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has completed its findings, which address the future demand for petroleum and natural gas, the City’s comparative economic advantages, potential impacts to the City’s multi-modal transportation system, and the role fossil fuel terminals play in serving other businesses in the area.
City Council will hold a public hearing on June 30 to hear testimony on the findings and subsequently vote on the ordinance.
Visit the project homepage for more information.