Houston-based Zenith Energy is receiving a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) from the City of Portland that will allow the company to begin using its newly-built racking system for unloading tank cars on its existing tank farm in Portland’s Northwest Industrial District. The City’s Bureau of Development Services is issuing the TCO because the new infrastructure complies with applicable code requirements. The project represents a significant safety upgrade to the site that includes a state-of-the-art fire suppression system, a spill containment facility in the offloading area and building sprinklers. The work does not expand the capacity of the existing storage tanks. The TCO allows the company to start using their new loading platforms while their old offloading system that does not have these safety features is taken offline and similarly upgraded. The TCO stipulates that Zenith must stop using their old offloading system.
The TCO is being issued to Zenith on Thursday, July 18, 2019.
“Decisions on permit applications are made according to the regulations that are in effect when the application is submitted,” notes Terry Whitehill, Building Official with the City of Portland. “Zenith originally filed their permit application with the City in 2014, two years prior to the City Council adopting amendments to the Portland Zoning Code related to fossil fuel terminals. The City cannot change the goalposts now and apply new, different requirements after the applicant has already submitted their permit application and been approved for construction. The project meets all applicable code requirements, so we have no authority to delay or deny the TCO.”
Bureau of Development Services Director Rebecca Esau fully acknowledges the predicament that Zenith Energy presents to the City given the City Council’s renewable energy goals and opposition to the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. “We completely share the Council’s and public’s concerns. Climate change is real, it’s happening rapidly, and action is needed now. That action needs to come in many forms, including new regulations related to fossil fuels and renewable energy. City Council adopted regulations in 2016 but those regulations were appealed. As a regulatory agency that administers and enforces existing land use and building permit requirements, the Bureau of Development Services only has authority to apply the regulations that were in effect when Zenith Energy applied for their permit in 2014. Zenith is complying with all applicable code requirements, so the bureau must proceed with issuing the TCO. It’s also important to note that their capacity at the site is not being expanded and these upgrades are making this facility safer for the public and the environment. As long as these facilities exist it’s important that they are as safe as possible. At the same time, the City continues to take important steps to address fossil fuels in Portland.”
The 2016 Fossil Fuel Terminal Zoning Code Amendments that were passed by City Council and then appealed will be brought back to Council in September. Expanded findings of fact will be presented to support the previously adopted code language that halts the expansion of new fossil fuel infrastructure in the City. For information about what was adopted in 2016, click here.
Zenith Energy’s newly-built racking system where the trains offload the crude oil includes a new foam fire protection system, fire alarm system and spill control/containment. Additional permit activity filed by Zenith with the City includes electrical, plumbing and mechanical work. Zenith has also applied for an Early Assistance appointment with the City about the feasibility of installing additional piping at their facility on NW Front Ave.
The Zenith Energy permit application is public record. For details, click here.
If you have any questions, please contact Alex Cousins, Communications Manager at 503-823-5929.