Community News


Six state and local conservation groups have filed an appeal of Skagit County’s decision that could allow a proposed Shell Puget Sound Refinery crude-by-rail facility at March Point to move forward without requiring a full environmental review.

The groups involved in the appeal include RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Friends of the San Juans, ForestEthics, Washington Environmental Council, Friends of the Earth and Evergreen Islands, represented by Earthjustice.

“Before we allow more oil trains, we better make sure they pose no threat to our communities,” said Tom Glade of Evergreen Islands, in a news release distributed on Friday. “Shell’s plans, especially coming after all the derailments and accidents that we’ve already seen, must undergo a thorough and public analysis to ensure our safety.”

These conservation groups said they are filing this appeal because of significant risks and impacts to people, water, and wildlife and are demanding a full environmental review. They are also demanding that Shell be prevented from using any rail facility as a way to ship crude over marine waters.

“Without prohibitions on the export of crude oil from the Shell Refinery,” said Fred Felleman, Northwest consultant for Friends of the Earth, “Increased train traffic will also result in increased tanker traffic and oil spills. This risk to Puget Sound is simply too great.”

Shell has proposed a facility that would receive one unit train of crude oil per day, with each unit train consisting of four locomotives and approximately 102 crude oil tank cars. Nearby refineries, including the Tesoro Refinery next door to the Shell Refinery at March Point, have built similar facilities; however, those refineries began their projects before an ongoing chain of oil train explosions revealed the extreme volatility of the Bakken crude.

Oil trains cross the old Burlington/Mount Vernon bridge spanning the Skagit River just upstream from the Anacortes Water Treatment Plant as well as the old swing bridge spanning the Swinomish Channel near the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Oil trains pass through the downtowns of Burlington, Conway and Mount Vernon.