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Protecting Grays Harbor from Becoming an Industrial Crude Oil Zone

Aerial view of Grays Harbor, WA.

Aerial view of Grays Harbor, WA.

Photo provided by Quinault Indian Nation

Case Overview

The Quinault Indian Nation, represented by Earthjustice, is opposing the first of at least three proposed oil shipping facilities that could transform Grays Harbor, WA into an industrial crude oil zone.

Westway Terminal Company, based in Louisiana and Texas, seeks authorization for construction of a new oil shipping terminal in Grays Harbor that would give it the capacity to store 800,000 barrels of crude oil at any given time. Westway predicts that it will bring at least ten million barrels of crude oil annually through Grays Harbor, via rail and marine vessels.

Two additional facilities for crude-by-rail—amounting to tens of millions of barrels of crude oil annually through Grays Harbor—are also being proposed in the same area, posing major environmental risks to the Grays Harbor community and the Quinault Indian Nation. State and local regulators have decided to allow this proposal to go forward with minimal environmental review.

Crude-by-rail systems are a recent, but booming, phenomenon. Instead of pipelines, which are both expensive to build and subject to full environmental review and regulation, crude oil is loaded onto rail tank cars for deliveries to refineries. In 2012, major U.S. railroads transported at least 20 times as many carloads of crude oil as they did in 2008—a more than 2,000 percent increase in four years. The Grays Harbor proposals add marine vessels to this patchwork system: crude oil would arrive by rail, be transferred into large storage tanks, then be piped into ocean-going barges and ships to be transported and again transferred to refineries in Washington or California.

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Case Updates

April 11, 2014 | In the News: Associated Press

Oil by Rail Terminal Proposed for Washington State

A development group is seeking permits to construct a massive oil terminal that would store and transport 45,000 of barrels of crude oil a day through Washington’s Grays Harbor estuary, a thriving region for tribal and commercial fishing. “It’s a terrible idea. We’re talking about a third project with massive increases of crude oil coming in by rail and all of those risks,” said Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles.

November 13, 2013 | Press Release

Grays Harbor Crude Oil Terminals Blocked

Board holds projects need full evaluation of “oil spill risks, increase in rail and vessel traffic, and location of expanded facilities in areas of known natural resource and cultural sensitivity.”

November 13, 2013 | In the News: KPLU

Permits for Crude-by-Rail Terminals Rejected in WA

State officials rejected permits for two major crude-by-rail terminals in Southwest Washington. Westway Terminal Co. and Imperium Terminal Services proposed the construction of oil shipping gas terminals capable of storing tens of millions of crude oil from North Dakota and Alberta, Canada.