The Washington Shorelines Hearings Board reversed permits for two crude oil shipping terminals in Grays Harbor, Washington for failure to address significant public safety and environmental issues. The projects cannot go forward until full and detailed environmental reviews assess all individual and cumulative impacts, according to the final decision released late yesterday.
The Quinault Indian Nation and conservation groups argued that regulatory agencies failed to adequately evaluate the risks of oil spills from trains or marine vessels that would expose tribal fishing rights, commercial and recreational fishing and shellfishing, and the economy and environment of Grays Harbor to major harm.
The Board agreed with petitioners Quinault Indian Nation, Friends of Grays Harbor, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Grays Harbor Audubon, and Citizens for a Clean Harbor that moving hundreds of oil-laden trains and ships through Washington demands full and public environmental review.
Quote from Fawn Sharp, President, Quinault Indian Nation:
"We applaud the decision by the Shoreline Hearings Board to reverse the permit for the crude oil shipping terminals.
"Those permits should have never been issued in the first place. The shipping terminals would be a clear violation of public safety as well as treaty-protected rights. The public trust should not be jeopardized in this manner. Neither should the water nor other environmental resources upon which we all depend. Far more jobs would be lost when the inevitable spills occur than would be gained from the development of the proposed oil terminals. It is the responsibility of the Shoreline Hearings Board and all public entities to take a strong stand against these terminals and all such projects that would diminish the quality of life in our region.
"Good public policy demands that decision makers assess ultimate and cumulative impacts of their decisions and mitigate any potential harm to the public or tribal interest before they commit to an irreversible course of action.
"The history of oil spills provides ample, devastating evidence that there are no reasonable conditions under which these proposed terminal projects should proceed."
Westway Terminal Company and Imperium Terminal Services had each proposed projects that would ship tens of millions of barrels of crude oil through Grays Harbor each year. Daily trains more than a mile long would bring crude oil from North Dakota or tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada along the Chehalis River and into the port, where it would be stored in huge shoreline tanks. The crude would then be pumped onto oil tankers and barges, increasing at least four-fold the large vessel traffic in and out of the harbor.
“There should be a statewide moratorium on crude-by-rail projects,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice representing the Quinault Indian Nation. “A frantic dash to permit is immoral when we’re talking millions of gallons of combustible oil, risks of devastating crude oil spills in rivers and the ocean, harm to traditional fishing economies, and irreplaceable natural resources.”
The Board’s decision comes as the risks of crude-by-rail oil shipments has come into public focus. In July, a crude-by-rail train exploded and leveled a portion of a small Quebec town, tragically killing almost 50 people. That horrific scene replayed last week, as a similar crude oil train derailed and exploded in Alabama, with fortunately no loss of life. The Grays Harbor projects are the first of almost ten projects slated for Washington’s coast that have been challenged; the enormous Tesoro-Savage proposal on the Columbia River is currently undergoing permitting review.
A copy of the Board’s decision is at http://earthjustice.org/documents/legal-document/pdf/crude-by-rail-final-decision.