Nearly two years after it opened and started moving millions of gallons of crude oil, Global Partners’ oil train terminal near Clatskanie now has the air pollution permit it needs to operate – and expand.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the state’s clean air regulator, approved the permit Tuesday morning, a key step in allowing growth at a terminal that unloads North Dakota oil from trains onto barges headed to refineries in Washington and California.

The terminal’s new permit allows it to move 1.8 billion gallons of oil annually, enough to bring 50 oil trains per month through Portland and small Columbia River towns like Scappoose, Rainier and St. Helens. That’s twice the number of trains it can currently handle.

Eric Slifka, Global’s CEO, called the new permit a key step toward a $50 million to $70 million expansion to restart ethanol production while continuing to unload crude oil trains.

“We are pleased to have received our permit, which is the next step toward infrastructure upgrades that will create hundreds of jobs during the construction phase and new permanent jobs when the facility is fully operational,” Slifka said.

Massachusetts-based Global Partners blew past earlier permit limits, drawing a $117,292 fine from the DEQ in March. Though the state allowed the terminal to unload 50 million gallons annually, it moved 300 million gallons last year.

The facility began as a state-subsidized ethanol fuel terminal, but went bankrupt in 2009. In June 2012, the DEQ quickly approved a routine permit change that allowed it to start moving crude oil instead of ethanol from trains onto barges, saying the shift had an incidental effect on the site’s air pollution.

The impact on nearby communities was far from incidental. It cleared the way for oil trains to start moving through Oregon in late 2012 without the public knowing they were coming.

Oregon’s environmental regulator also approved the terminal’s oil spill plan Tuesday.

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