FEIS for crude oil shipment terminal in Hoquiam released

Significant and unavoidable environmental impacts to health and safety likely if an accident occurs

The final environmental impact statement considering the effects of a crude oil shipping facility in Hoquiam says the project “would cause significant and unavoidable environmental impacts to health and safety if a crude oil spill, fire or explosion occurs,” and adds, “There are also impacts to tribal resources.”

The massive report posted on the state Department of Ecology web site Thursday night, also proposes 69 mitigation measures to offset or reduce environmental impacts from the project as it has been proposed. A subsequent press release from the city of Hoquiam and DOE, co-managers of the EIS process, highlights some measures Westway Terminal Company LLC should implement if it were to go through with the project, including using newer rail cars and providing escort tugs in Grays Harbor when the crude is moved; adding response equipment caches in key locations; and, coordinating spill response training for local emergency responders and tribes.

Opponents to the project have started poring over the document and say it’s still lacking evidence that the project will be safe.

One of the primary opponents to the oil terminal has been the Quinault Indian Nation. “If the study provides a true account of risks to the safety, economy and way of life of tribal members and our Grays Harbor neighbors, the City of Hoquiam will have a clear and defensible choice to deny a permit.” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation. “(Hoquiam) has a responsibility to keep our communities and shared waters safe and productive, not put them at risk from oil train derailments and oil spills.”

The Port of Grays Harbor, where the facility would be located, has been supportive of the oil project but declined to comment until officials have the chance to review the FEIS. There will be a presentation to the board during an upcoming meeting, said Kayla Dunlap, a spokeswoman for the port.

However, Westway issued a statement about the release of the document.

“Westway’s expansion in Grays Harbor represents a long-term commitment to this community. The final EIS released today by the City of Hoquiam and Ecology shows how to build this project with the highest commitment to safety in a way that protects our neighbors and the environment we all value,” said G.R. “Jerry” Cardillo, president and CEO of Westway Terminals.

“I don’t feel that it’s adequate,” said Arthur Grunbaum, president of Friends of Grays Harbor and a member of Citizens for a Clean Harbor, said of the environmental impact statement. “They seem to feel the risks are acceptable, but it’s just not acceptable to put citizens and the environment in harm’s way.”

An example of such a derailment happened in Mosier, OR., earlier this year. Grunbaum said people situated near the accident site fared surprisingly well considering the extent of damage.

Locally, between Centralia and Hoquiam along the rail route that would be used by trains delivering crude oil to the facility, “there are more than 10,000 students within the ‘one-mile blast zone,’” he pointed out. “The risk is still there for a train derailing or boat capsizing (in the water) or a collision.”

That zone is considered the area along the tracks where the affect of a derailment and explosion would be most apparent and damaging.

Grunbaum also said the city-level permitting process shouldn’t be administrative. The decision should rest with the City Council, not administrators, he said.

Hoquiam will be the agency that takes first action on the proposal when it considers the company’s application for a shoreline substantial development permit.

Shay said that permit process includes the opportunity for public comment.

“Roughly 60 percent of Grays Harbor’s population, about 44,000 people, could be influenced, affected or terminated by the decision of one single individual,” Grunbaum said. “It at least should be considered by elected officials.”

There are many other government bodies to which Westway must submit its plans for permit or other forms of approval.

When a permit agency issues permits, including Hoquiam, it can require mitigation measures, including those in the FEIS.

“The city of Hoquiam will review the application under the requirements of the Hoquiam Municipal Code and then make a decision on the proposed project in accordance with the adopted rules and regulations,” Shay said.

The city changed its zoning code after Westway applied to develop the project. In the future “a crude oil handling facility would not be allowed as a permitted use. The application would not be accepted,” he explained.

An earlier draft version of Environmental Impact Statement received nearly 100,000 comments. Major concerns included potential for an incident involving crude oil, particularly related to offsite rail transport, and any resulting impacts on public health and safety, the environment, and the local economy.

“Washington is said to have the best oil spill response in the nation, but the system is not up to this task,” said Larry Thevik, vice president of the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association.

“We all know these terminals carry grave risks. A better path than crude oil is to protect and build on our strengths like commercial and recreational fisheries, shellfish aquaculture and tourism,” he said.

Also, the potential limits of liability for response to — and cleanup of — an oil spill and risks associated with siting the facility in an earthquake and tsunami hazard area were mentioned frequently in comments.

The potential for impacts on treaty rights, specifically the Quinault Indian Nation’s Usual and Accustomed fishing areas were noted frequently.

Health risks related to emissions of diesel particulate matter, especially from rail operations between the rail yard and the project site, and greenhouse gas emissions from the use of rail and vessels to transport the crude were cited as worrisome.

For example, an average of 1.25 more trains per day would roll along the 59 mile route if the facility was operating at capacity. But because emissions would be spread throughout the route it’s anticipated emission standards would not be exceeded at any one location. Vessel traffic would increase by one vessel every other day, the report stated.

And, there were concerns about inducement for “crude oil production at the source,” the report noted.

The city of Hoquiam and the DOE jointly issued the report. In a statement after the FEIS was posted for reading, the two agencies noted that the final environmental impact statement isn’t a permit, but a resource of information for decision makers who will be considering the permits.

Westway Terminal Company LLC intends to develop 7 acres between terminals 1 and 2 at he Port of Grays Harbor — within its existing 16-acre Hoquiam site that handles methanol and magnesium oxide — to add a storage facility for receiving, storing, and loading crude oil for transport. The crude would come in by train for storage, then be loaded onto tank vessels at Terminal 1 for shipment to refineries in such locations as Puget Sound and California.

The FEIS includes expanded information about affects of oil spills and explosions to human health and the environment. It also provides new proposed mitigation measures related to oil spills and explosions, analyzes the lifting of the federal crude oil export ban for the proposal, and revises the Air Quality analysis to take into account updated information that would result if the project were to be completed.

Download the FEIS and DEIS at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/geographic/graysharbor/westwayterminal.html#FinalEIS

There will be printed copies of the FEIS at the Hoquiam City Hall, 609 8th St., and the Hoquiam Timberland Library, 420 7th St.

The Imperium project remains in the document in some places. Westway or another company won’t be able to construct something within that other project’s stated specifications, Shay emphasized.