Community News

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A coalition of seven local and regional environmental organizations are appealing Skagit County’s approval of a new chemical project at the Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) refinery on March Point.

The groups maintain that the approval for the petrochemical expansion project did not receive a proper review and that the Environmental Impact Statement ignored threats to a healthy Salish Sea and livable climate.

The coalition including Stand.earth, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Friends of the San Juans, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Evergreen Islands filed the appeal with the state Shorelines Hearings Board, challenging a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit that the Skagit County Board of Commissioners upheld on March 6. Nearly 7,500 public commenters had pressed Skagit County for a careful review, and nearly 200 citizens attended a February 27 hearing on the issue.

The coalition requests that the State Shorelines Hearings Board vacate the permit and require additional environmental review. That review, performed by Skagit County staff, failed to adequately consider the impacts from increased vessel traffic in the Salish Sea, increased risk of petrochemical and oil spills, increased emissions of greenhouse gases, increased impacts to air and water quality and increased threats to public health and safety. It also overlooked increased impacts to fish and wildlife resources — including the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.

The appeal notes that Governor Inslee recently signed an Executive Order instructing state agencies to take aggressive action to recover Southern Resident killer whales because they are “an iconic and treasured species in Washington and throughout the Pacific Northwest.”

The groups are also appealing the decision to only require a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, instead of a stronger Shoreline Conditional Use Permit. The more rigorous permit is required when older facilities propose new uses in the shoreline area, and when large bulk transfer operations are involved. Because of the unique risks associated with these types of projects, the State Department of Ecology is responsible for approving shoreline conditional uses.

“This project’s potential for doing irreparable environmental harm to our Salish Sea is why our environmental coalition came together in a steadfast effort to hold governments and industry to the highest standards. Skagit County has failed to properly regulate new industrial activity and its impacts. This project will transform the existing wharf into a petrochemical export terminal, a new use that was never before been considered or approved. We are acting today to protect not only the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Reserve and the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve – both with shorelines designated Shoreline of Statewide Significance – but also Fidalgo, Guemes, and Samish Islands,” said Tom Glade, President of Evergreen Islands.

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. Xylenes are toxic, flammable petrochemicals used to make plastic and synthetics.