The vast majority of Oregon’s liquid fuel supply flows through the Critical Energy Infrastructure Hub in Portland just upstream of the St. Johns Bridge (see map).  This facility was built on fill dredged from the Willamette River.  In a CSZ event, this soil is likely to liquefy, causing huge amounts of liquid fuel to spill into the Willamette, perhaps catching on fire and destroying much of the St Johns neighborhood.

A report by the Oregon Department of Geology & Mineral Industries found that “A major Cascadia earthquake and tsunami would likely produce an unprecedented catastrophe much larger than any disaster the state has faced.” [page 12]  Also, “following a Cascadia earthquake, there will likely be no gas available to the public for a considerable period of time. During a winter storm, power outages last hours to days long. After a Cascadia earthquake, many Oregonians could be without heat and electrical power for months.” [page 119]

Most of this facility is in private hands, and regulatory oversight is extremely weak, making it difficult to force energy operators to make their facilities more resilient to the quake.

Cascadia Prepared recommends that the state act to place the entire CEI facility under the jurisdiction of a single agency with the authority to require compliance with new rules, requiring that the facilities (fuel tanks, transmission towers, pipelines and the like)  be made seismically resilient within a reasonable period, say five years.  Operators could accomplish this goal in several ways:

  1. Relocating the facilities to less vulnerable locations, preferably dispersed more widely throughout the earthquake zone west of the Cascades.
  2. Shoring up the underlying soil to prevent liquefaction.
  3. Replacing the existing tanks – some are over 100 years old – with more resilient ones, ensuring a solid foundation

This work will cost money, but energy will never be cheaper than it is now, and the cost of making these changes can be built into the pricing structure of the operators and recouped over several years.  It will not require a tax increase or tax credits (although these are alternate possibilities to the regulatory approach suggested here), although business and personal energy consumers will ultimately bear the cost through higher prices.