The public is invited to comment on the scope of an environmental impact statement (EIS) that Skagit County and the state Department of Ecology plan to jointly prepare for a proposed facility to receive rail deliveries of crude oil at the Shell Puget Sound Refinery.
Comments on the EIS scoping will be accepted at public meetings, via the web, and by email and standard mail through Nov. 5. The 45-day comment period is more than double the usual 21 days prescribed in state EIS regulations.
Shell proposes to build and operate a facility that would unload crude oil from up to six trains per week, with up to 102 tank cars in each train. The project would include construction of a rail spur from an existing nearby BNSF Railway line.
The county and Ecology are conducting the EIS process together as “co-leads” for the proposed rail facility, under the State Environmental Policy Act.
First step in EIS process
An EIS describes a proposed project’s impacts, but does not address whether the proposal should receive permits. Permitting decisions occur after the EIS is complete.
Before writing an EIS, the co-leads conduct the scoping process to help decide the topics to be analyzed in the EIS. They seek input from other agencies, tribes, local governments and the public on how the EIS should address:
· A reasonable range of alternatives for the proposal.
· Potentially affected resources and the extent to which the EIS should analyze those resources.
· Identifying significant unavoidable adverse impacts.
· Measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate effects caused by the proposal.
After the comment period the co-leads will decide what should be included in the EIS. They expect to issue a scoping report this winter and begin work on a draft EIS, which may take approximately nine months to prepare. The lead agencies will seek public comment on the draft EIS, and then produce a final EIS.
Get information and make comments
People can view information about the proposed project and the EIS process at the official EIS website, shellraileis.com. Comments are welcome at any time during the comment period via:
· The website’s comments section
· Mail: Seattle Rail EIS Comments, Box 21206, Seattle WA 98111
· Phone: 1-844-254-9668, toll free, record a comment up to five minutes
· Hand delivery: Skagit County Planning and Development Services, 1800 Continental Place, Mount Vernon, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., weekdays
The county and Ecology also will host three scoping meetings, which will include information on the proposed project, staff available to answer questions, and opportunities to provide oral or written comments. There will be no formal presentation, and people may arrive and leave as they choose during the meeting hours.
Meetings are set for these dates and locations:
The three meetings will follow the same schedule:
· An open house with information about the proposed project: 4-8 p.m.
· Facilitated verbal public comment session: 5-7:30 p.m.
· Comment forms and other options to provide comments.
People interested in speaking at the verbal comment sessions will enter random drawings for one of about 65 two-minute speaking slots at each event. The drawings will occur at the start of each hour during the 2½-hour sessions.