Skagit County and the state Department of Ecology have studied the potential environmental impacts from Shell’s proposed crude-by-rail unloading facility in Anacortes and published a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public review.
An EIS is a report on a proposal’s likely effects on the environment, reasonable alternatives, and measures that can offset, or mitigate, those effects. An EIS is not a permit. It neither supports nor opposes the project it evaluates.
Shell proposes to build and operate a crude oil unloading facility at its Anacortes refinery. The proposed project would include a new rail spur from an adjacent BNSF Railway line onto the Shell property. The facility would enable Shell to unload crude oil from as many as six unit trains per week, with up to 102 tank cars in each train.
The project would include equipment and facilities to pump oil from rail cars to existing tanks within the refinery, stormwater detention ponds, and safety and spill response measures.
The draft report includes studies of potential impacts to the natural and built environments. The county and Ecology conducted an in-depth analysis that was responsive to public comments received during last year’s scoping period, prior to starting the study. Topics include:
- Impacts to about 25 acres of wetlands, and proposed mitigation at a nearby site in Padilla Bay.
- The likelihood of rail accidents and a range of factors that would increase or decrease risk, like improved railroad track maintenance. The study also analyzes Shell’s proposed mitigation to use only rail cars that meet or exceed DOT-117, the federal government’s most recent safety standards.
- Analysis of potential changes in traffic or vehicle delays on roadways and intersections near at-grade railroad crossings during construction and operation.
- An increase in greenhouse gas emissions caused by delivering some crude by rail instead of by vessel. Proposed mitigation includes an update of Shell’s facility-wide vehicle anti-idling program to reduce the impact.
“We’ve worked hard to understand and disclose the potential impacts and risks from this proposed project. Now it’s the community’s turn to review and offer their perspective on our evaluation,” said Josh Baldi, Ecology’s northwest regional office director.
The draft EIS is available for review online and at reading room locations across the state through Dec. 2, 2016. The public can provide verbal testimony and written comments at three public hearings in November. Project staff will be in attendance to answer questions.