Stand Up to Oil Coalition Disappointed by Permit Approval for Petrochemical Expansion Proposal in Salish Sea
December 7, 2017
Environmental groups disappointed by Skagit County’s ruling on permit for the Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) Anacortes Refinery xylene expansion project.
MOUNT VERNON, WA — This morning, the Skagit County Hearing Examiner issued a ruling on the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit for the Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) Anacortes Refinery xylene expansion project, approving the permit.
The decision was met with disappointment by local activists and environmental groups with Stand Up to Oil, a growing coalition opposed to new oil terminals and an increase in oil transport through the Northwest. More than 7,500 comments were submitted about the proposal’s inadequate environmental study. Local groups are reviewing options to appeal the decision.
In response to the decision, local environmental organizations with Stand Up to Oil issued the following statements:
“The state Shoreline Hearings Board recently required a methanol plant proposal in Kalama to redo their environmental study because it lowballed the climate impacts. The environmental study for Andeavor’s proposal contains similar errors,” said Alex Ramel, Extreme Oil Field Director at Stand.earth. “The true climate impacts of this proposal are the equivalent of adding more than 75,000 cars to the road. The flawed environmental study made it impossible for Skagit County to know the significance of what they were being asked to approve. The Hearing Examiner could have corrected this mistake, but didn’t. At a time when Washington state is working to reduce the pollution that causes global warming, this project would take us in the wrong direction.”
“Andeavor has combined unrelated upgrades into one package for environmental review to mask the true impact of their export project.” said Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program Manager at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities. “Exporting xylenes and crude oil are new uses of the refinery’s terminal that have not been adequately reviewed or authorized by state agencies. Advocates for the environment are disappointed that the Hearing Examiner made the wrong decision today, including by not requiring a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit.”
“This project will increase the number of vessels carrying toxic petrochemicals through the fragile ecosystem of the Salish Sea. The increased threat of a spill from this proposal is a significant risk to the endangered Southern Resident orcas and the health of our region. Washington state has inadequate oil spill prevention and response procedures, and every increase in tanker traffic puts our sensitive marine environment and economy even more at risk,” said Stephanie Buffum, Executive Director of Friends of the San Juans. “An adequate environmental study should have considered cumulative impacts from the massive increase in vessel traffic through the Salish Sea — not just the Andeavor refinery project, but the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline proposal in British Columbia as well. Failing to require a cumulative assessment of tanker traffic and spill risks puts our beloved orcas at serious risk.”
“Grossly miscalculated greenhouse gas emissions, unrelated proposals that mask the true environmental impacts, and an inadequate assessment of marine spills — that’s the hand we were dealt with the final environmental study for Andeavor’s xylene export project,’” said Tom Glade, Board President of Evergreen Islands. “The Hearing Examiner’s decision to approve the project without addressing any of these concerns is bad news for the environment and our community. We are considering our options to appeal this decision.”
Xylenes are toxic, flammable petrochemicals used to make plastic and synthetics. The Andeavor Anacortes Refinery petrochemical expansion project would add capacity and allow the refinery to begin producing and exporting 15,000 barrels (630,000 gallons) of xylenes per day for export to Asia. It would increase Salish Sea tanker traffic by an additional five tankers per month.
More than 7,500 people submitted comments on the project’s draft environmental impact statement (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, massive increases in the pollution that causes global warming, 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.
In July 2017, Skagit County Planning and Development Services issued the project’s final environmental impact statement, just two months after the public comment period on the draft EIS. The final EIS did not adequately address concerns in many areas.
In November 2017, more than 100 people attended a public hearing on the project’s Shoreline Substantial Development Permit. The overwhelming majority of them were there to continue to highlight flaws in the project’s final EIS, and to call on the Skagit County Hearing Examiner to deny the shoreline permit for the project.