Crude by rail environmental reviews begin for Port of Grays Harbor
Environmental reviews begin this week for two separate proposals in Hoquiam to expand facilities and increase capacity to receive, store and ship bulk liquids like biofuels and crude oil.
From April 10 through May 27, the state Department of Ecology and the city of Hoquiam invite the public to comment on what should be studied in environmental impact statements for proposals by Westway Terminal Company and Imperium Renewables.
An EIS is a document that provides information about the effects of a proposal. It is neither a decision nor a permit. The EISs compile information that helps inform future decisions made by local and state permitting agencies. Permit decisions cannot be made until after the environmental reviews are complete.
Both proposals are at the first step in the scoping period. After considering comments received during scoping, the agencies will decide what to study in the EIS. Ecology and Hoquiam have identified certain study areas that will be noted in their determinations of significance, to be published on April 10 and available via Ecology’s website.
Scoping comments may be shared at two public meetings this month, submitted in writing, or by an electronic comment form at https://public.commentworks.com/cwx/westwayimperiumcommentform.
Two public meetings with open house sessions are scheduled. No formal presentation will occur, so people may arrive and leave as they choose. Meetings are 5 to 9 p.m., with public comment beginning at 6 p.m.
• April 24: Hoquiam High School Commons, 501 W. Emerson Ave.
• April 29: Centralia High School Commons, 813 Eshom Road.
The mailing address is Westway and Imperium Renewables Expansion Projects, 710 Second Avenue, Suite 550, Seattle, WA 98104.
Though the proposals are separate, the agencies are holding a joint scoping comment period. All comments received will be considered for the environmental reviews for both proposals.
The Port of Grays Harbor says that tests and studies are already underway to ensure that any crude oil that may travel to the Port is transported safely.
In February, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an Emergency Order requiring all rail tank car transporters of petroleum crude oil from the Bakken region to properly test and classify the product. It requires Class 3 crude oil to be treated as hazardous material and requires it be transported on rail lines that have approved security plans in place for handling hazardous material.
“Increased safety is vital to the future opportunity to ship crude through Grays Harbor,” explained Gary Nelson, Executive Director. “The Port applauds our state and federal regulatory partners for taking immediate steps to improve safety and we will continue to turn to them for guidance on best practices to further our mission of attracting jobs and investment.”
The DOT also issued Guidelines aimed at improving the safety of crude oil shipments. These measures are voluntary, but have been met with great cooperation, and will take effect by July 1st.
The guidelines include:
• Trains slowing to 40mph in major cities
• More frequent inspections of tracks over which oil trains move
• Exploring “safest” routing options
• Examining emergency response capabilities
In its supplemental operating budget, the Washington State Legislature committed $652,000 for the Department of Ecology to develop preparedness and response plans for risks related to the increase of crude oil being moved by rail and vessel.
An additional $300,000 was set aside for DOE to conduct a study of oil shipments through Washington State including analysis of risks, gaps and options for increasing public safety and improving spill prevention and response readiness in consultation with stakeholders. An update is to be provided to the Governor and Legislature by December 1, 2014, with a final report due by March 1, 2015.
After receiving the Order on Summary Judgment from the Washington State Shorelines Hearing Board in November that invalidated the SEPA checklist determination and remanded the shoreline permits for each of the projects, existing tenants Westway Terminals and Imperium Grays Harbor announced they would self-initiate an
Environmental Impact Statement for their projects. Scoping meetings for the EIS are expected to be held in late April.
Grays Harbor Rail Terminal has indicated they plan to submit permits for their proposed project at Terminal 3 in Hoquiam in the near future.
A “Citizen Powered Town Hall Meeting” is scheduled this month in Elma to discuss the pros and cons of the proposed crude by rail projects.
The meeting will be held Wednesday, April 23rd, at 6:00pm at the Elma Grange.