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Skagit Commission Fails to Address Impacts of Petrochemical Expansion Permit

MOUNT VERNON, WA — On Friday March 9, the Board of Skagit County Commissioners dismissed the arguments made by environmental organizations and upheld a key permit for the Tesoro (recently renamed Andeavor) Anacortes Refinery to export new petrochemicals. Despite significant public concerns raised about the project, the Board opted not to consider whether the Environmental Impact Statement had adequately considered all of the project’s impacts. The board also decided not to require a more rigorous Shoreline Conditional Use permit for the project.   

The groups that had appealed the decision are considering their options. “Obviously, we’re disappointed in the outcome,” said Chris Winter, with Crag Law Center. “The County Planning Department and Hearing Examiner made a number of mistakes based on an incomplete environmental review. Rather than correct those mistakes, the County Commissioners chose to circle the wagons. Fortunately, the public can get another shot at this through the Shoreline Hearings Board. We will be discussing this option and will announce our next steps shortly.”

Following the announcement, environmental organizations Stand.earthRE Sources for Sustainable CommunitiesFriends of the San Juans, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club and Evergreen Islands issued the following statements:

“This decision has broad implications for the health and safety of the Salish Sea and our climate. Tesoro cannot export 15,000 barrels per day of  xylenes (which make plastics) without this permit, but the Commissioners declined to review the risks and impacts of that shipping. That choice conflicts with the reasonable requirement to review all environmental impacts associated with a project,” said Kyle Loring Staff Attorney with Friends of the San Juans.

“This project’s potential for doing irreparable environmental harm to our Salish Sea is why our coalition came together, to hold governments and industry to the highest standards. The regulators have failed to properly regulate new industrial activity and its impacts. This project will transform the existing wharf into a petrochemical export terminal, a new use that was never before considered or approved. The decision today continues those mistakes. A Conditional Use Permit must be required for new uses, especially when the project is adjacent to both the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Reserve and the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve, both with shorelines designated Shoreline of Statewide Significance,” said Tom Glade, President of Evergreen Islands.

“The Salish Sea is irreplaceable. The Environmental Impacts Study was deeply flawed, failed to account for the acoustic impacts on Southern Resident Killer Whales, and failed to account for the real risk of an actual worst case spill. It’s important that the analysis be done properly and we are disappointed at the Board’s decision to ignore those errors,”  said Marcie Keever, Oceans & Vessels Program Director, Friends of the Earth. 

“The Board of Commissioners’ decision today fails to learn from the mistakes Kalama County made last year. The impacts of greenhouse gas emissions must be included in a proper evaluation of this project. By understating the greenhouse gas emissions of this project and failing to complete a life-cycle analysis, Skagit County made the same mistakes that Kalama County made. The Sierra Club helped to appeal the Kalama decision to the Shoreline Hearings Board. We won, and the emissions analysis has to be redone. Today’s decision is subject to the same appeals process, and we will continue to fight to ensure this dirty and dangerous project is assessed for its full impacts on our climate and communities.” — Stephanie Hillman, Northwest Campaign Representative, Sierra Club

Contact: Patrick Davis, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0744, pdavis@foe.org

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