Oregon’s Critical Energy Infrastructure (CEI) Hub and its unique potential for aligning seismic risk policies with climate change goals for 2050 green house gas emission reductions
This 6-mile stretch of over 300 active fuel and oil storage tanks along the Lower Willamette River in Portland, Oregon will become our Achilles Heel when we someday have a damaging earthquake. Many of these tanks were built in the decades prior to any earthquake codes or standards and the CEI Hub sits adjacent to the Portland Hills Fault along Hwy 30 and is concentrated on top of a highly liquefiable shoreline. According to a May 2019 report from PSU and the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, the daily average storage capacity is about 360 million gallons of various petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, motor oil, and numerous other products like kerosene and fuel additives.
Since the release of the 2013 Oregon Resilience Plan, emergency officials have become increasingly concerned about the impact to the state’s fuel supply following a damaging earthquake, since 90-95% of Oregon’s fuel storage capacity is in the CEI Hub. Most of the attention has been around planning for emergency fuel allocations with the understanding that much of the existing fuel will be unavailable due to damaged fuel infrastructure and restricted transportation access. This loss of fuel places crippling limitations on the emergency response capacity of the entire state.
During the summer of 2019, I made a number of calls to environmental regulatory agencies, like the EPA, DEQ, and Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, and discovered there’s no existing environmental impact analysis for a catastrophic failure of these facilities. I did the math and it would take only a spill of 3% of that 360 million gallons to equal the 10.8 million gallons released during the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Prince Williams Sound, Alaska. The truth is that we would likely experience an even greater spill into the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers with no capability to deploy an adequate spill response in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake.
We must start bringing this possibility of a secondary environmental catastrophe from a damaging earthquake into our community conversations and long-term planning. From a disaster resilience perspective, we should leverage the need to reduce this seismic risk to our fossil fuel storage facilities in order to get the public and political buy-in for meeting our 2050 targets on carbon emission reductions. The CEI Hub is the perfect nexus for aligning seismic policies and climate change policies to reduce our EQ vulnerabilities while also achieving our sustainable vision for future generations.
Slides with voice-over narration from the following presentations:
- Oregon Emergency Management Association Annual Conference, Closing Session, 10/10/19
- Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, Staff meeting, 10/15/19
- Portland Disaster Management Council, 10/31/19
- Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization, Policy Committee, 11/8/19
- Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission, 11/12/19
- Clackamas County Climate Exchange, 11/29/19
- Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, 1/14/20