Oil Check Washington

Washington refinery, once presented as a “clean fuels” project gets even oilier

September 3rd - Yesterday, Waterside Energy gave a public presentation on its potential new oil refinery at the Port of Longview. Once lauded as a clean fuels project, Waterside presenters revealed their plans to include a Liquid Petroleum Gas (propane) facility that could ship 75,000 barrel/day.

Originally this project was marketed as an opportunity to expand lower emissions fuels. Waterside has proposed building a 30,000-barrel/day oil refinery that would also refine up to 15,000 barrels/day of biofuel. Many have questioned Waterside's intentions and even see the biofuels portion as a Trojan Horse to simply building new oil capacity. For local advocates yesterday’s announcement confirmed these suspicions.

As a quick reminder of how we got here, let’s go through what we know about Waterside so far.

Basic overview

Their original proposal would cost $800 million and refine oil from the Bakken in North Dakota and renewable biofuels from foreign sources brought in by tanker ships up the Columbia River. The Rainforest Action Network has pointed of that this is likely to be palm oil, a fuel source rot with forest devastation and human rights abuses.

What’s the company?

Documents obtained by the Columbia Riverkeeper have revealed a dizzying slue of names the company has gone by. Their original Memorandum of Understand with the Port of Longview was submitted by Riverside Energy. In a PowerPoint presentation they were listed as Riverside Refining. Finally, in their most recent presentation, they were marked as Waterside Energy. They’ve also started a new company, Washington Energy Storage and Transfer, for the new propane export project. All of these are now subsidiaries of Waterside Energy.

What’s even more bizarre, none of these companies are in Washington. Representatives claim their company is from Texas but the state only has records for Riverside Energy and they are listed as inactive. Further investigation from the Sightline Institute revealed that both Riverside Energy and Riverside Refining are listed as companies’ within the state of Delaware. The tiny east coast state has a notoriously high volume of “PO Box only” companies registered within its boundaries due in large part to its extremely light corporate tax laws.

Who’s behind it?

While the companies themselves seem to be rather hollow, the men behind them are all too real. Listed as project proponents are Lou Soumas, Chris Efird and Damon Pistulka. Unfortunately, these guys do not have a strong track record in the state when it comes to energy projects. They’re currently in the midst of an on going lawsuit for a previously failed biofuels project in Odessa, WA. Transmessis Columbia Plateau is being sued for false credit information and paying their managers rather than their debts.

Yesterday Riverside seemed to reveal their true intentions. Unfortunately for folks in Southwest Washington, the proponents’ poor track record and shady company profile were a good indication of their goals.

Both the original refinery and the new propane terminal still need approval from the Longview Port Commission. The Port has already rejected a propane export terminal earlier this year. They’ll also need permits from state regulators, who so far, have been none too keen to approve fossil fuel infrastructure.

While they look to have an uphill regulatory fight ahead of them, this would be the largest new oil refinery in the country in 39 years. Advocates have been organizing against a host of projects in the region. The largest oil terminal in the country is proposed for Vancouver Washington. A massive coal export facility is still being forced through the regulatory process in Longview.

The region has a tough road ahead, but so far they’ve been up to the task to keep the Thin Green Line intact.

Nick Abraham - Editor Oil Check Northwest

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