The Skagit County Hearing Examiner has approved a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit for a proposed oil refinery expansion. The Andeavor Anacortes Refinery, formerly under the name Tesoro, has proposed upgrades to the facility to help meet new federal gasoline emissions regulations. The project would also expand the refinery's storage and shipping of the chemical xylene.
The nonprofit Friends of the San Juans has raised environmental concerns to the hearing examiner and other county officials. Friends of the San Juans Executive Director Stephanie Buffum said the refinery proposal would bring five more tankers a month through the Salish Sea, impacting marine life. She says shipping xylene, in particular, could come with added dangers.
"Our responders out here in the islands have absolutely no experience or training with a xylene spill," Buffum said. "It would be highly explosive, so you have some significant new hazards added to the marine environment here in the Salish Sea."
Xylene is used in the manufacturing of a variety of plastics and other synthetic materials.
Friends of the San Juans and Stand.earth have filed an appeal of the hearing examiner's approval for the shoreline permit. In a statement the groups say “Skagit County needs to do the right thing and deny this permit, in the absence of critical information about project impacts.” The groups are deciding whether to file future legal challenges. Alex Ramel of Stand.earth said the climate impact of the proposal is equivalent to "adding more than 75,000 cars to the road.”
Andeavor needs several more government permits before it can proceed with the project, known as Clean Products Upgrade Project (CPUP). A company spokesperson says receiving the shoreline permit allows Andeavor to continue to invest in the project and community. Andeavor Senior Manager Matt Gill said the expansion includes “transformational and environmental upgrades to the Anacortes refinery,” including upgrades to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Skagit County Hearing Examiner Wick Dufford, who approved the shoreline permit on Dec. 7, said he found CPUP would not result in new impacts from increased marine traffic around the refinery.
12/16/2017: Updated to reflect that an appeal has been filed over the Shoreline Substantial Development permit.