Report: ‘The Big One’ earthquake could send millions of gallons of fuel into the Willamette River

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — We know it’s just a matter of time before a massive earthquake hits the Pacific Northwest.

Now, a new report just released by the Multnomah County Office of Sustainability and Portland Bureau of Emergency Management is shedding more light on what it could look like in Portland if an earthquake caused a major gasoline and diesel spill.

Along the west side of the Willamette River in the industrial area of Northwest Portland lies six miles of fuel tanks. The white containers at the Critical Energy Infrastructure Hub not only hold 90% of the state’s gas and diesel, but they also store all of the jet fuel used at the Portland International Airport.

Laura Marshall is an economist with ECONorthwest who was also a part of the findings that were released on Monday. She said a large earthquake could release anywhere from 95,000,000-194,000,000 gallons of fuel into the Willamette, and the cost to clean it up would be billions of dollars.

Lawmakers are introducing Senate Bill 1567, a bill that would require the owners of the terminals to submit plans on how they could better protect the area.

“Government needs to step up and make sure these fuel tanks are in a position to withstand the worst effects of the shaking and liquefaction,” said Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow who introduced the bill last month.

Some of the requirements in the bill would make sure the pipes are retrofitted so they can handle an earthquake, another would be to make sure all of the terminals are on foundations because right now some of them aren’t.

It would also require owners and operators of bulk oil and liquid fuel terminals to submit seismic vulnerability assessments to be turned in by June 1, 2024. It also would require owners or operators of bulk oils or liquid fuels terminals to properly implement a seismic risk implementation plan approved by the department.

You can read the full bill here.

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