Operations at Zenith Energy’s Portland Terminal, located on NW Front St., pose real dangers to Oregonians and to Earth’s climate. Since Zenith took over the site in December 2017, it has been receiving tar sands and crude oil on mile-long trains from Canada and North Dakota. And despite promises to local officials, Zenith’s oil throughput has increased over the last five years. The oil trains carrying these loads are incredibly dangerous, and the products Zenith handles have major implications for climate change and public health.

NEDC is partnering with local advocates, neighborhood associations, and community groups to stop Zenith in its tracks. Zenith has applies for a renewal of its “Title V” air permit- a complex document covering all air emissions at the facility, that Zenith must obtain to continue operating in Portland. A critical first step in this air permitting process is a “Land Use Compatibility Statement” from the City of Portland, demonstrating that any permit issued will be consistent with the city’s land use regulations. In August 2021, Portland denied Zenith’s LUCS, stating Zenith’s activities were not compatible with the City’s 2035 Comprehensive Land Use Plan. This LUCS denial was upheld by Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals and the Oregon Court of Appeals- a significant victory for the environment and for public health.

Unfortunately, in October 2022, the City of Portland reversed itself, and issued an affirmative LUCS for Zenith’s operations. Subsequent public records requests demonstrated that Portland elected officials, political staff, and City attorneys met with Zenith behind closed doors, and that these meetings determined the form, substance, and outcome of the new LUCS approval. Portland’s City Auditor investigated these meetings, and found that they represented a significant departure from the City’s standard practice. Local advocates and neighborhood associations were left completely out of the approval process.

Now, NEDC and our partners are pushing back against this legally deficient LUCS, and the new Zenith air permit it will be used to support. We are demanding that the City reconsider its LUCS approval, and to take public input on the decision. And we are requesting that the Oregon DEQ acknowledge the legal deficiencies of the LUCS and remand it to the City: a recent petition along these lines to Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission garnered support from several elected officials, tribes, and dozens of community members and community-based organizations.

We’re just getting started in our fight against Zenith operations in Portland. It’s critical that we make a stand now to protect our city, our region, and our climate.