Environmental Groups Speak Out Against Anacortes Refinery’s Petrochemical Expansion Proposal in Salish Sea

November 1, 2017

Community activists, environmental organizations to testify at upcoming public hearing highlighting flaws in project’s final environmental impact statement and calling on Skagit County Hearing Examiner to deny permits.

MOUNT VERNON, WA — Community activists and representatives from many environmental organizations including Stand.earth, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Evergreen Islands, and Friends of the San Juans will testify at an upcoming public hearing on a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit for the Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) Anacortes Refinery xylene expansion project, highlighting flaws in the project’s final environmental impact statement and calling on the Skagit County Hearing Examiner to deny permits for the project.

The hearing is at 9 a.m. on Thursday, November 2, at the Skagit County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, 1800 Continental Place, Mount Vernon. Speakers can sign up at 8:30 a.m., and the hearing will go as long as needed for everyone to testify. 

Xylenes are toxic, flammable petrochemicals used to make plastic and synthetics. The proposal would add capacity and allow the refinery to begin producing and exporting 15,000 barrels (630,000 gallons) of xylene per day for export to Asia. It would also increase Salish Sea tanker traffic by an additional five tankers per month, creating the risk of a toxic spill that would threaten fragile marine habitat and the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

Ahead of the public hearing, environmental organizations Stand.earth, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Friends of the San Juans, and Evergreen Islands issue the following statements:

“Last month, the state Shoreline Hearings Board required a methanol plant proposal in Kalama to redo the environmental impact statement because state agencies lowballed the climate impacts. The environmental study for Andeavor’s xylene proposal contains similar errors, making it impossible for decisionmakers in Skagit County to know the significance of what they are being asking to approve,” said Alex Ramel, Extreme Oil Field Director at Stand.earth. “The true climate impacts of this project are the equivalent of adding more than 75,000 cars to the road, and the Skagit County Hearing Examiner must do the right thing and send this environmental study back for further review.”

“Andeavor has combined unrelated upgrades into one package for environmental review to mask the true impact of their export project. New uses of the refinery terminal to export xylenes and crude oil have not been authorized by the state or county. The risks of a toxic spill from increased vessel traffic endanger the people and ecosystems of the Salish Sea. This project has not been adequately reviewed by state agencies and at the least must require a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit with restrictions and limits,” said Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program Manager at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.

“The increased threat of a toxic spill from this project remain a significant risk to the endangered Southern Resident orcas and the health of our region. The final environmental review fails to consider cumulative impacts from the massive increase in vessel traffic through the Salish Sea — not just the Tesoro refinery project, but the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline proposal in British Columbia. Washington state already has inadequate oil spill prevention and response procedures, and the increase in tanker traffic from these projects only puts our sensitive marine environment and economy even more at risk,” said Stephanie Buffum, Executive Director of Friends of the San Juans.

“Since the location of Andeavor’s wharf is a ‘shoreline of statewide significance,’ Skagit County must ‘consider incremental and cumulative impacts of permitted development and include provisions to insure no net loss of shoreline ecosystems and ecosystem-wide processes,’” said Tom Glade, Board President of Evergreen Islands.

More than 7,500 people submitted comments on the project’s draft EIS, the majority of which asked Skagit County to address concerns over worker safety standards, petrochemical spills in the Salish Sea, risks to endangered orcas, increasing crude oil train traffic, and use of the new facility for crude oil export. Commenters also asked the county to separately review the xylene export and clean products upgrade components of the project, while properly accounting for greenhouse gas pollution.

Skagit County Planning and Development Services issued the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for Andeavor’s xylene project proposal in July, just two months after the public comment period on the draft EIS. The final EIS did not adequately address concerns in many areas.

Read more about the project in this op-ed published by Stand.earth in the Cascadia Weekly on November 1, or in this article published by Sightline Institute on October 31.

Media contacts:
Alex Ramel, Stand.earth, alex@stand.earth, 360-305-5079
Stephanie Buffum, Friends of the San Juans, 360-472-0404
Eddy Ury, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, eddyu@re-sources.org, 206-972-2001