Public comments on Tesoro's xylene plan

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Tom Glade, representing Evergreen Islands, and a handful of others were queued up to comment at a an open house for a proposal by the Tesoro’s March Point refinery to add new capacity to produce and ship xylene.

Tesoro want to produce 15,000 barrels per day of mixed xylenes and to supply cleaner local transportation fuels. Mixed xylene is a compound found in gasoline, and is used to make clothing, plastics, and other synthetic products.

In order to do that, Tesoro proposes to add several new production units to the refinery.

Glade told the sparse audience at Brodniak Hall that the proposal would add tanker traffic, as many as five tankers a week, to Puget Sound.

He said their proposal is really a trojan horse because it could, ultimately, allow Tesoro to ship bakken crude oil by tanker, something it is planning to do from a proposed Vancouver, Wash., terminal, should that plan run into roadblocks. Shipping crude from the refinery might lead to increased rail traffic.

Anacortes resident Andrea Dahl said she was concerned about potential environmental effects from xylene. She asked is there a risk of a fire or explosion. What about toxic health effects. “How will the community and the wildlife benefit?" she asked.

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The open house in the AHS gym was designed to acquaint citizens with the xylene proposal and look for comments ahead of writing an environmental impact statement (EIS) which the county is requiring. The Thursday open house and comment period are part of a “scoping” process to help the county decide the extent of environmental study needed to be included in the EIS.

A draft EIS identifies existing site conditions, relevant laws and regulations, likely significant adverse impacts, reasonable alternatives, and measures to avoid or minimize impacts. The draft EIS will be available for public review and comment to ensure its completeness and accuracy. It could be ready as early as June.

The final EIS provides responses to the comments made on the draft EIS. There is no formal comment period for a final EIS, although there is a seven-day waiting period before agencies are allowed to issue any permits or approvals for the proposal.

The county will accept written comments until April 15. More information at the County’s project page.