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Washington Supreme Court Orders Environmental Review for Coastal Oil Terminals

January 12, 2017

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that two proposed fossil fuel terminal projects in Grays Harbor cannot go forward without further environmental review.

 The court Thursday sided with the Quinault Indian tribe and four environmental groups in overturning a 2015 appeals court decision that the two projects were not subject to review under the state’s Ocean Resources Management Act.

That lower court ruling upheld the decision by the state and the city of Hoquiam to issue permits for the expansion of the Westway and Imperium terminals without being subject to the act. Both projects would have allowed the companies to bring in more oil and gas by rail and load it onto ocean-going vessels.

The Supreme Court reversed that decision and ordered the projects to undergo further review to ensure they have minimal environmental, social, and economic impacts.

Project opponents issued a statement describing the Supreme Court ruling as a "monumental victory" that spells the end of the project because "Westway simply will not be able to meet those higher requirements."

The Imperium project was sold in 2015 an Iowa company, the Renewable Energy Group. It dropped its plans last year for a fossil fuel terminal in Grays Harbor.

The other faces regulatory hurdles in addition to the one imposed Thursday by the Supreme Court. In September the Washington Department of Ecology said in its final environmental review that the Westway oil terminal carries the risk of oil spills, fires and explosions, which could cause significant and unavoidable environmental impacts to health and safety proposed at the Port of Grays Harbor in Hoquiam, Washington.

The study also identified dozens of steps that could be taken to reduce or mitigate those risks.

The Westway project, now called Contanda LLC, 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.


Oil trains line the tracks in Portland on the route toward a terminal in Clatskanie. Environmental groups claimed the terminal's air quality permit was issued incorrectly.

Tony Schick

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