Community News

The state Department of Ecology has agreed to a request by Skagit County to serve as a co-lead agency to oversee the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposal by the Shell Anacortes oil refinery to develop a rail unloading facility for crude oil deliveries.

The Shell refinery proposes to build and operate the terminal, which would be capable of unloading 102 railroad tank cars per day. The refinery would receive deliveries from six trains per week.

Ecology Director Maia Bellon replied yesterday to a letter from the Skagit County Board of Commissioners. Bellon said the department agrees that the proposed project presents potential statewide and regional issues that the EIS should address.

Under Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), which governs the environmental review process, Skagit County serves as the lead agency. But the county can enter into agreements with other agencies to serve as co-leads.

Skagit County Planning Director Dale Pernula said he is encouraged that Ecology has agreed to be a co-lead agency for the project’s environmental review. He said that Ecology will bring guidance and expertise on the elements of the environment that might have statewide or regional impacts. The state’s role will be complemented by the county’s local expertise.

The EIS will contain environmental data and will evaluate the project’s potential impacts as well as options for offsetting them. The EIS makes this information available to the public and aids government agencies that must review Shell’s applications for various permits needed to construct and operate the project.

The co-lead agencies will now prepare for the scoping phase to identify the issues the EIS will address. Once a contractor has been retained, Skagit County and Ecology plan to issue a public notice that will advertise the dates, times and locations of public scoping meetings, expected to occur this summer or early fall. 

The SEPA review process provides opportunities for comment and input from affected jurisdictions, residents, tribes and other agencies. The first public comment opportunity will occur during scoping, and again when the draft EIS is available.