Marissa Luck, March 10, 2015, The Daily News
About 100 people gathered at the Longview Civic Center on Monday afternoon to support Haven Energy’s proposed propane-butane terminal at the Port of Longview.
“(Haven) puts a lot of people to work. It’s great for the city and for the tax roll,” said an electrician, Roger Kell, 54, of Kalama. “Clean energy is the future, and I think we need it.”
Have estimates the local construction industry stands to gain about 2,000 jobs when building the terminal, which would take up 24 acres of port property.
The rally occurred just one day before port commissioners are scheduled to vote on a lease agreement with the Houston-based company, which says it would about $45 million in profits to the port over the next decade. The three-member port commission is expected to vote on the lease following a public comment that starts at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Cowlitz Expo Center.
Opponents have raised concerns about safety, rail congestion, port operations and the environmental effects of fracking, from which butane and propane are derived as a byproduct of oil production. The project has divided the local labor movement — with construction workers in support and longshoremen in opposition. Two out of three port commissioners are both former longshoremen with strong ties to the local dockworkers.
Supporters say the project would be a half-billion dollar boost to the local economy over the next decade and would help the environment — by capturing gases that are now simply burned off as waste. They also say opponents’ safety concerns are greatly exaggerated, pointing out that the tanks used to store liquid butane were designed to be safe in Middle Eastern war zones.
Only a couple of quiet opponents showed up at the rally.
The rally was organized with short notice by the Kelso-Longview Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 4,000 members of local unions, and by Gallatin Public Affairs, the public relations company that represents Haven.
The crowd was mostly workers of JH Kelly, the Longview union contractor that likely will build the project if port commissioners approve the lease.
Tom Vanskike. 43, of Castle Rock and a member of the local pipefitters and plumbers union, said construction work has been sparse here for the past years.
“I have to drive up and down the interstate for work,” he said, noting that commutes can be anywhere from three to five hours to reach a job in Portland or Tacoma during rush hour.
“We need this our community … Longview is trying to expand itself instead of being a retirement city. We need more young families,” said Vanskike’s wife, Christine, 44.
“There’s not enough of my demographic here,” said Dan Guglielmo, 31, a Longview resident and marketing and business development director for JH Kelly. “Projects like this will attract more talent to the area.”
In a short speech, Haven Energy president Greg Bowles highlighted his working class upbringing as the son of a firefighter and stay-at-home mom. He graduated from a public high school and landed a college scholarship to become an engineer.
“This community has so much to offer. This is what this community needs so that kids of firefighters and kids of electricians in Longview have the opportunity to get a shot at their dreams,” he said.
“I want to see opportunities for us, for my eight-year old son,” said Mike Bridges, an electrician with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48 and president of the Kelso- Longview Building and Construction Trades Council.
“We can’t start apprenticeships until we see jobs like this,” he added.