News

Oil Trains

More train shipments expected in Washington

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hundreds of trains carrying crude oil could soon be chugging across the Northwest, bringing potential jobs and revenues but raising concerns about oil spills, increased train and vessel traffic and other issues.

With five refineries, Washington has long received crude oil from Alaska and elsewhere by ship, barges and pipelines. But ports and refiners are increasingly turning to trains to take advantage of a boom in oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region.

Three terminals—in Anacortes, Tacoma, and Clatskanie, Ore.—are already receiving crude oil by trains. Other facilities are proposed at the ports of Grays Harbor and Vancouver, and at refineries at Cherry Point.

The BP and Phillips 66 refineries at Cherry Point have received approval from the Northwest Clean Air Agency to build facilities to handle crude oil by rail. To comply with its current air operating permit, the refineries won’t be allowed to increase the amount of oil it can process, an agency spokeswoman said.

Company spokesman Rich Johnson said Phillips 66 is building a rail offloading facility capable of handling 30,000 barrels per day of crude oil. “The refinery has received all necessary permits for the project and expects the rail offloading facility to be in operation in the fourth quarter of 2014,” he said in an email.

The Shell Puget Sound refinery in Anacortes is also exploring bringing crude oil by rail to replace some supply currently brought in by ship, the company said in materials it submitted to Skagit County planners over the summer.

An oil train typically has about 100 rail cars and each car can hold about 28,000 gallons.

Together, the 10 proposed projects would be capable of moving nearly 800,000 barrels per day, said Eric de Place, policy director at Sightline Institute. “It’s a lot of oil that we’re talking about moving by train in Washington. It raises new questions about how the state can handle a spill.”

The Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is reviewing a proposal by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. for a terminal at the Port of Vancouver to handle as many as 380,000 barrels a day of crude oil. Oil arriving by train would be unloaded, stored temporarily and then loaded onto marine vessels to be shipped to refineries on the West Coast.

“We are committed to building and operating in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” said Kelly Flint, senior vice-president of Savage. He said the project would not only benefit the local community but move the country ahead in energy independence.

Public hearings took place this week in Clark County. The council will make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say.

Construction could begin by late 2014.

Critics say shipping oil by train is risky and could cause environmental harm from leaking oil tanker cars or derailments.

“It’s very dangerous to move this stuff by rail,” said Sierra Club spokesman Eddie Scher, pointing to the fiery train disaster in Quebec. In July, 47 people were killed when an unattended train rolled away and derailed in the town of Lac-Megantic and several of its oil cars exploded.

The Association of American Railroads says 99.9977 percent of all shipments of hazardous materials, including crude oil, get to their destination without a leak caused by accidents.

BNSF Railway is committed to safety and preventing accidents, said spokeswoman Roxanne Butler. BNSF has invested millions of dollars in its infrastructure and trained employees across its network to respond to hazmat incidents, she said. It frequently inspects tracks, uses technology to detect potential equipment failure and maintains special emergency response equipment along routes, she added. Butler said BNSF currently handles 600,000 barrels of crude oil a day across its entire network.

Most of that oil heads to other parts of the country; in the Pacific Northwest, “we average over one train per day to this area,” she said in an email.

As the transportation of oil shifts from ships and pipelines to trains, officials say they have to change how they prepare for potential oil spills.

“We’re monitoring the way that the movement of oil is changing. And we have to think about what changes we need,” said Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, manager of Ecology’s spills preparedness section.
She said the state has been focused on oil coming into the state on ships and pipelines but will need to refocus attention to planning for a crude oil spill in the inland areas.

“The scale of the oil by rail is completely unprecedented and the state is not prepared to deal with a spill,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director for Columbia Riverkeeper.

Environmentalists and others have challenged oil shipping terminals proposed at the Port ofGrays Harbor by Westway Terminal Co. and Imperium Terminal Services. They say the projects will bring tens of millions of barrels of crude oil through the area each year, increasing train and barge traffic and the risk of oil spills.

The groups won a victory this month when a state hearings board said it would reverse permits issued by Hoquiam and the state to Westway and Imperium. The groups had argued that the agencies failed to do a more complete environmental review.

Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney representing the groups, said the board identified serious flaws in the permitting and environmental review.

Svend Brandt-Erichsen, an attorney with Marten Law representing Westway, said the decision would create delays but that it wouldn’t be hard to get the information needed. “There’s not a whole lot of new substantial requirements that will come out of this,” he said.

©2013, Associated Press

3 Oms 8th Anniversary (Spotlight)
More News...
National Treasure II
Washington AG sues Trump administration over coal leasing

Attorney General Bob Ferguson joined colleagues in four other states last week in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management over a program to lease coal-mining rights on public land, which contributes to significant coal-train traffic…

more »
National Treasure I
State legislators oppose Trump executive order

A bipartisan group of 325 state legislators from 44 states sent a letter to President Trump this week, raising strong concerns with an unprecedented action to review public lands under an executive order signed late last month. The diverse group of legislators urge the president not to…

more »
Can This Forest Be Saved?
Blanchard Mountain hangs in the balance

They renamed the state forest after one of its most ardent champions. They approved the mechanism that would save the core of the forest from being logged through an existing program called a Trust Land Transfer. Now, in a special session, can this forest be saved?

Before they adjourned…

more »
Events
Today
All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Downtown Walk with WNPS

6:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Bellingham Reads

6:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Audubon Talk

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

MVHS Jazz

7:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

University Choir

7:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Books on Tap

7:00pm|Maggie's Pub

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Tomorrow
Ski to Sea Book Sale

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

Spring Tea

2:00pm|Lynden Community Center

Blaine Marina Tour

2:00pm|Blaine Marina

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market Opening

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Brewers Cruise Kickoff

6:30pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Just Halibut

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Thomas Marriott Quartet

7:00pm|Unity Spiritual Center

Panty Hoes

9:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

Northwood Steak and Crab Trove
Thursday
Ski to Sea Book Sale

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

BC Morgan Horse Show

9:00am| Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Whatcom Food Network's Spring Forum

1:00pm|Squalicum Boathouse

Experience Ireland

6:00pm|Whatcom Community College

Red Light to Starboard

6:30pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Elimination Diet Cooking

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Movie Trivia

7:00pm|Bayou Annex Bar

Adventure Awaits!

7:00pm|Village Books

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

What-A-Sho!

7:00pm|Bellingham High School

Golden Goose Preview

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Crevasse Rescue Clinic

7:30pm|Backcountry Essentials

Julius Caesar

7:30pm|Miller Hall

Twelfth Night

7:30pm|Philip Tarro Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Trove Village Books Lester and Hyldahl Northwood Steak and Crab Bellingham Farmer’s Market