Petrochemical Export Project Canceled: Deal prevents climate pollution, protects Southern Resident orcas

Deal signed by Environmental Organizations, Skagit County, and Refinery will allow clean air projects to proceed and halts new petrochemical processing and export at Anacortes Oil Refinery

SKAGIT COUNTY, WA — In an agreement announced today, the owners of the Anacortes Oil Refinery agreed to withdraw plans to manufacture and export 15,000 barrels per day of mixed xylenes — petrochemicals used to make plastics — through the Salish Sea. In exchange, six environmental organizations agreed to drop an ongoing appeal of related permits. Skagit County, which issued the permits, has also signed the agreement.

The proposal to produce and export mixed xylenes would have caused a dramatic increase in energy use required for the refinery, resulting in a climate impact equivalent to adding 75,000 vehicles to the road. The project would have required the refinery to transport significant quantities of feedstocks, as well as shipping tankers of the refined product to Asia. The appellants argued that the County’s environmental impact statement did not  adequately analyze the risk of the additional vessel trips, exacerbated risk of an oil and chemical spill, and increased threats to the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population. The agreement announced today eliminates these impacts.

The six organizations have agreed not to oppose Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co LLC — a subsidiary of  Marathon Petroleum Corporation — in constructing their marine vapor emission control system (MVEC). The MVEC system will capture and burn fugitive vapors that could otherwise be released and cause pollution during loading and unloading of petrochemicals at Marathon’s pier. The system was necessary to manage the increased emissions that would have occurred from the xylene export proposal, but can also be used to limit the impact of existing operations. Other project components related to reducing the sulfur content of diesel were not opposed and have already been completed.

The environmental organizations that appealed the decision are Stand.earth, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Friends of the San Juans, Friends of the Earth, Puget Soundkeeper, and Evergreen Islands. The groups are represented by Crag Law Center.

Members of the appeal group issued the following statements:

“Washington State is going to use less and less fossil fuel every year from now on. Instead of planning for the future, some fossil fuel companies are trying to shift to foreign markets and export their polluting products. We need to be clear that our intent is a clean energy economy, not different pollution somewhere else. This agreement sets that precedent” stated Matt Krogh, Extreme Oil Campaign Director, Stand.earth.

“Today’s win is a win for our waters, and demonstrates the importance of standing up against dirty fossil fuels. We must remain vigilant and hold the line against proposed petrochemical projects in our region,” said Alyssa Barton, Policy Manager with Puget Soundkeeper.

“This is a win for the Southern Resident Killer Whales. This project would have brought 120 new vessel transits each year through the Southern Residents critical habitat, increasing vessel impacts and the risk of a disastrous petrochemical spill,” stated Stephanie Buffum, Executive Director of Friends of the San Juans.

“Allowing the marine vapor control system while preventing xylene export and manufacture is a win win. The MVEC will improve air quality and working conditions on the dock, while avoiding the impacts on the climate from new and unnecessary petrochemical processing,” said Tom Glade, President of Evergreen Islands.

“The Anacortes Refinery’s plan plan to manufacture and export 15,000 barrels of mixed xylenes a day would have been the equivalent of adding 75,000 cars to the road,” said Verner Wilson III, senior oceans campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S. “This agreement shows how important voices fighting against polluters are. By holding oil and gas companies accountable we can prevent further climate pollution.”

“This agreement is a win for the Salish Sea, local air quality and public health,” saidEddy Ury, Clean Energy Program Manager at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities. “Tesoro packaged their petrochemical export expansion for environmental review together with unrelated upgrades for low-sulfur fuels and controlling dockside emissions, attempting to hide the impacts and make it more difficult to challenge. We called them out, and have arrived at a compromise that allows Tesoro to complete their clean products upgrades and emissions control system without the mixed xylenes project.”

Communications contact: Aisha Dukule, (202) 222-0709, [email protected]

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