Zenith Energy’s Tar Sands Oil Facility in NW Portland

In December 2017, Zenith Energy bought an old asphalt and crude oil terminal located in NW Portland. Within months of purchasing the terminal, Zenith Energy began importing tar sands crude oil by rail from Canada. These oil trains move through neighborhoods in North and Northeast Portland, putting 1 in 4 residents within the blast zone of this oil trains. The tar sands oil is unloaded into tanks at the terminal in NW Portland along the Willamette River, and finally loaded onto tankers with destinations including China, South Korea, and California. These trains will put our community and environment at risk. 

A close up of a train carrying oil.

Not only is Zenith using old infrastructure permitted to transport asphalt in order to move tar sands crude oil through Portland, they are using permits filed by the terminals former owner in 2014 to expand the facility, which allowed them to avoid restriction on expansion under the City of Portland landmark legislation banning new fossil fuel storage facilities and expansions of existing facilities. If new construction is completed, Zenith will achieve a four-fold increase in railcar unloading capability, potentially increasing the number of oil trains passing through Portland each week. 

Since learning of Zenith’s new tar sands business, thousands of Portlanders have taken action by coming to community forums, calling and emailing the city council, and even taking direct action at the facility itself! Now, we need to keep the pressure on and show the Portland City Council that there is no room for tar sands in our City.

On May 2, 2019, 16 environmental and community organizations sent a letter to the Portland City Council calling on them to deny any new permits related to Zenith’s terminal expansion plans, hold a public hearing on the project, and start planning for a managed decline of existing fossil fuel infrastructure. Since the news broke about the Zenith expansion, thousands of Portlanders have attended community forums and contacted the city to express opposition to expanding oil shipment operations. Others have been arrested for taking direct action at the Zenith facility.

Talking Points

  • Enact a moratorium on City permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure while more comprehensive code changes are adopted. 
  • City Council should declare an emergency and issue a stop work order until the full impacts of the project have been assessed and the ability of first responders to adequately respond to a worst case scenario disaster or spill on site or from oil transport is ensured.
  • Reinstitute the fossil fuel terminal zoning amendments. 
  • Adopt code that implements commitments of resolution No. 37164 (City of Portland oil train policy) and Resolution No. 37168 (City of Portland fossil fuel infrastructure policy). 
  • Develop plans for a fossil fuel infrastructure phase out.

Learn more about Zenith