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Environmental Risks Identified for Grays Harbor Oil Terminal

September 30, 2016

Regulators say an oil terminal proposed for a coastal Washington state harbor poses several environmental problems.

The state Department of Ecology identified those problems in its  final environmental review released Friday for the Westway oil terminal proposed at the Port of Grays Harbor in Hoquiam, Washington.

The project would expand an existing methanol facility so it can handle around 750 million gallons of crude oil a year. The oil would be delivered by train, stored on site and transported by barge to refineries.

The report finds the proposed project carries the risk of oil spills, fires and explosions, which could cause significant and unavoidable environmental impacts to health and safety.

Regulators proposed dozens of measures that would reduce the environmental risks, such as using newer rail cars and escort tugs in Grays Harbor and adding emergency response equipment caches and spill response training for emergency officials.

The review, known as an environmental impact statement or EIS, also responds to around 100,000 public comments on the draft environmental impact statement released last year.

Local, state and federal agencies will use the analysis make required permitting decisions on the proposal.

Members of the Quinault Indian Nation, which opposes the project, say they’re reviewing the document and hoping it will acknowledge the impacts that cannot be mitigated. An oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon, in June has underscored the safety risks of transporting oil by rail.

“If the study provides a true account of risks to the safety, economy and way of life of tribal members and our Grays Harbor neighbors, the City of Hoquiam will have a clear and defensible choice to deny a permit,” said Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp. “The city has a responsibility to keep our communities and shared waters safe and productive, not put them at risk from oil train derailments and oil spills.”

Jerry Cardillo, president and CEO of project developer Westway Terminals, said his company now has a roadmap for building the project in the safest way possible. An economic analysis commissioned by the company found the project will create 73 full time direct and indirect jobs and, once complete, will contribute $24 million to the economy each year in state and local tax revenue.

“Westway’s expansion in Grays Harbor represents a long-term commitment to this community,” Cardillo said. “We look forward to meeting the high standards of the EIS, continuing our history of safe terminal operations and beginning construction.”


Oil trains in industrial Northwest Portland.

Tony Schick, OPB/EarthFix