Portland Faces Many Questions About the Seismic Risk Analysis, But Gets Few Answers

On Wednesday, August 4th, the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commissioner held a joint virtual meeting where organizations and individuals had the opportunity to comment on their earthshaking Seismic Risk Analysis, a report they commissioned regarding what would happen to the Critical Energy Infrastructure (CEI) Hub in Northwest Portland if we experienced a major seismic event. The report’s conclusion: a historically massive oil spill that would destroy the Willamette River and Forest Park.

Topics discussed include containment walls, insurance and structural reinforcement of existing vulnerable tanks. XRPDX members were on the call, pressing City and County officials about what they planned to actually do in response to the report.

Notably, none of these officials were Portland City Commissioners, as none of them actually showed up.

XRPDX member Lynn Spitaleri-Handlin was blunt:

Zenith adds a great deal to the risks at the CEI hub, and it does not provide anything essential to the city or the state of Oregon. The unrefined product is shipped out to be used elsewhere. So why let them continue their operations on the liquefaction zone?

A lot of risk, ongoing harm, and no real benefit. So why not shut them down?

Can we hear from Dan Ryan’s office about how they will be denying the LUCS?

Margaux Weeke, a representative of Dan Ryan’s office said that they were concerned but couldn’t say much due to legal reasons. She did say that Ryan’s office would make their decision by the end of the month. (This response did not inspire Lynn’s confidence.)

Diane Meisenhelter also delivered testimony praising the report for validating what activists have been saying for years, criticized it for its shortcomings, and then made it very clear what the city needs to be doing in response to this report:

You must right now do the right thing as your constituents continue to demand. Deny Zenith’s Land Use Compatibility Statement. Insist on risk bonds/insurance by these companies to the full extent of likely disasters. Require them to do real disaster planning and have them pay for the resources needed to address their threats to our community. Require the upgrade of outdated facilities to current seismic requirements for that site. Begin a real plan for 10% annual decarbonization and a move away from fossil fuels. Begin the process of deconcentrating such risky facilities now located all in one ill-planned location. Every day delayed threatens an unthinkable disaster.

There is, at this point, no excuse for the City to approve Zenith’s expansion except for legal cowardice. As Lynn put it, “My hope is that the CEI Hub Earthquake report will give the City adequate apocalyptic cover to deny the LUCS.”

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Even if they didn’t show up for Wednesday’s meeting, there’s still time to pressure our City Commissioners to do the right thing and deny Zenith’s Land Use Compatibility Statement. At this point, calls are most effective, but everything counts. Here’s how to get in touch with them:

Commissioner Dan Ryan

Mayor Ted Wheeler

Commissioner Joann Hardesty

Commissioner Mingus Mapps

Commissioner Carmen Rubio

About Austen Lethbridge-Scarl

Austen Lethbridge-Scarl (he/him) is the editor of the XRPDX newsletter. Besides climate issues, he focuses on racial justice, police abolition and antifascism.


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