The state Department of Ecology has ordered the Shell Puget Sound Refinery on March Point to take immediate action to demonstrate the company is fully prepared to respond to an oil spill at its facility.
Ecology issued the order Aug. 11, 2008, after department spill inspectors went to the facility on July 1 and found that the Shell refinery:
- Wasn’t following the equipment readiness program detailed in their oil spill preparedness plan required by state law.
- Lacked maintenance records for its response equipment.
- Was unable to verify the location and condition of some of the spill response equipment listed in its spill readiness plan
“What we found at the Shell Puget Sound Refinery is disappointing and unacceptable,” said Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, Ecology’s Spill Preparedness Section Manager. “The refinery handles, produces and helps distribute millions of gallons of oil annually. Maintaining response equipment is a critical part of being ready to respond to any spill that might occur, regardless of size.”
“Shell Puget Sound Refinery takes great pride in its oil spill response plan, team and equipment. We are committed to safety and environmental compliance and policies that help us operate as a good neighbor in Skagit County,” said Sue Krienen, General Manager of Shell Puget Sound Refinery. “Our community is extremely important to us, and we operate our business in a manner that reflects those values.”
Pilkey-Jarvis said Ecology gave conditional approval to the refinery’s oil spill contingency plan in December 2007 with requirements for revisions to be in full compliance with the new state rules.
“So far, they have missed deadline requirements to make those revisions,” she said, adding that Shell is required to conduct another spill readiness drill this year.
Oil spill preparedness or “contingency” plans help ensure that refineries, pipelines, vessel shipping companies and large oil-handling facilities operating in Washington can mount an effective and timely response if they spill oil.
The requirement to have a preventative maintenance program for spill response equipment is part of the state’s revised oil spill planning rules. The changes were prompted after equipment problems slowed the initial response during the 4,700-gallon heavy fuel oil spill in December 2003 at Point Wells in Snohomish County.
Contingency plans describe the actions and equipment companies will deploy to minimize oil spill-related damage to state waters and to natural, cultural and economic resources.
Under the August 11 administrative order, Shell must:
- Immediately submit the overdue plan revisions to fully comply with state rules.
- By Aug. 20, 2008, schedule a facilitated spill readiness drill that Ecology will evaluate.
- By Aug. 22, 2008, update its oil spill contingency plan to accurately reflect the response equipment Shell owns at the refinery.
- By Nov. 7, 2008, develop and put a preventative maintenance plan in place for all Shell-owned spill response equipment, such as oil containment boom, trailers and boats. The company also must identify who will be responsible for keeping related records.
- By Jan. 30, 2009, conduct training for all appropriate facility personnel regarding the location, maintenance and use of response equipment, and document all preventative maintenance actions.
The company can appeal its order to a superior court. Ecology can revoke its conditional approval of Shell’s oil spill contingency plan if the company fails to comply with conditions set by the department.