State blocks permits for 2 Grays Harbor oil terminals

Board: Environmental, safety issues not addressed

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A state regulatory board is withdrawing its approval of permits for two crude oil shipping terminals in Grays Harbor, saying backers have failed to address public safety and environmental issues.

The Quinault Indian Nation and several conservation groups successfully argued that permits issued for two terminals in Grays Harbor should be reversed.

"Those permits should have never been issued in the first place," said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinalt Nation.

"The shipping terminals would be a clear violation of public safety, as well as treaty-protected rights. Far more jobs would be lost when the inevitable spills occur than would be gained from the development of the proposed oil terminals," Sharp said.

There are three terminals on the table for Grays Harbor. Two are officially in the permitting process, which is now on hold.

The Imperium terminal would draw two additional trains per day and 200 ships or barges per year. It would have storage capacity for more than 30 million gallons of oil.

The Westway terminal would draw two unit trains every three days and 64 barge movements. It would have storage capacity for more than 33 million gallons of oil.

Overall, the proposed projects could lead to 520 additional vessel transits per year in Grays Harbor, and 973 unit trains per year to the Port of Grays Harbor.

The Washington Shorelines Hearings Board said the permits were issued without appropriate review of the vessel and rail transit increases and identified "troubling questions of the adequacy of the analysis done regarding the potential for individual and cumulative impacts from oil spills, seismic events, greenhouse gas emissions, and impacts to cultural resources."

There are now 11 places in the Northwest considering taking oil arriving by rail from North Dakota to be transported onto ships. Meanwhile, there's talk in Congress about weakening rules against exporting American oil.