Review to begin of two proposed oil-handling expansions in Grays Harbor

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter


Updated: April 4, 2014, 7:04 PM


Meetings set for Grays Harbor impact study

The state Department of Ecology will develop environmental impact statements for proposed bulk liquid storage facility expansions by Westway Terminal Company and Imperium Renewables at the Port of Grays Harbor.

Public comment is open from April 10 through May 27 on the scope of those impact statements. Two public meetings with open house sessions will be held April 24 at Hoquiam High School and April 29 at Centralia High School. The meetings are from 5 to 9 p.m., with public comment beginning at 6 p.m.

Comments may also be submitted in writing by standard mail or through an electronic comment form. For more information about how to comment on the Westway and Imperium proposals, and the environmental review process, go to

— The Columbian

Environmental-impact reviews will begin next week of two separate proposals in Grays Harbor County to expand the handling of liquid bulk materials, including hauling crude oil by train, the state Department of Ecology said Friday.

Ecology and the city of Hoquiam, which are jointly managing the review process, will begin Thursday collecting public comments on what should be studied in environmental impact statements that will be prepared for the proposals by Westway Terminal Company and Imperium Renewables.

This scoping period, running through May 27, will offer the public opportunities to comment during meetings, and to submit remarks in writing by standard mail and through an electronic comment form.

Paula Ehlers, Ecology's southwest region shorelands manager, said the agency has expanded the required comment period from 21 days to 47 days. "We are open to all scoping comments," she said. "If someone believes there is an impact we should be looking at that isn't necessarily right at the site — those are good scoping comments."

Westway wants to expand its existing bulk liquid storage terminal to receive and store crude by rail and then to ship it by vessel or barge from Port of Grays Harbor Terminal 1. Five new storage tanks would each have a capacity of 200,000 barrels for a total storage capacity of 1 million barrels, according to Ecology. The expanded facility would handle 1.25 trains per day and about one barge every two days.

Imperium proposes enlarging its existing terminal to receive, store and ship a variety of liquid bulk materials, including biofuels, jet fuel, renewable diesel and crude oil. The bulk liquids would be shipped by rail, trucks, ships and barges to and from the Port of Grays Harbor Terminal 1.

Up to nine new storage tanks would each have a capacity of 80,000 barrels for a total storage capacity of up to 720,000 barrels. The existing rail facility would be expanded. Pipelines also would be installed. The terminal would handle about two unit trains per day and one ship or barge per day.

And while the companies' proposed projects are more than 130 miles northwest of Vancouver, they've caught the attention of local opponents of a proposal by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies to build the Northwest's largest oil-by-rail facility at the Port of Vancouver.

Don Steinke, a leader in speaking out against the Tesoro-Savage plan, said Friday that Friends of Grays Harbor contacted him for help in developing comments during the scoping period and that he agreed to do that. "I also will plan to submit by own individual comments," he said.

Steinke said his concerns extend beyond Vancouver. He said he supports city resolutions that would oppose new oil-by-rail transfer terminals and that would also place moratoriums on expansions of existing oil-train facilities until the safety of all oil train cars are properly upgraded.

Critics also cite other concerns, including potential oil spills and explosive derailments, increased train-traffic impacts on neighborhoods and global climate change.

"The trains will come through Vancouver," Steinke said of the potential impact of the proposals in Grays Harbor County, "and the National Transportation Safety Board said these trains should avoid populated areas."

Paul Queary, a spokesman for both the Westway and Imperium proposals, said Friday customers haven't been lined up yet but that the oil hauled by train would eventually be shipped to refineries on the West Coast. He cited a report by ECONorthwest showing the Westway and Imperium proposals would result in $143.3 million in direct private investment, 231 construction jobs, and 303 direct and indirect jobs.

As to how broad the environmental review should be, Queary said, "we're going to defer to the city and the Department of Ecology."

In Washington and Oregon, an estimated 10 refineries and port terminals are planning, building or already operating oil-by-rail shipments, according to Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based nonprofit that focuses on sustainability issues.

That list includes proposals in Grays Harbor County and the Tesoro-Savage plan, which would be capable of handling as much as 380,000 barrels of oil per day. The $110 million Tesoro-Savage operation would, at its peak, involve four unit trains (each composed of 100 to 110 rail cars) coming into the port and leaving it per day, according to the companies.

Under the Tesoro-Savage proposal, up to six above-ground tanks would each have a capacity of 380,000 barrels for a total storage capacity of up to 2.28 million barrels, according to the companies' permit application to the city of Vancouver.

The companies say the project would generate 250 temporary construction jobs and 120 permanent jobs, and boost local and state tax revenues.

The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is currently evaluating the Tesoro-Savage application. EFSEC will make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say.

Ecology officials noted Friday that EFSEC is in charge of the environmental examination of the Tesoro-Savage proposal while the proposals by Westway and Imperium fall under the purview of Ecology and the city of Hoquiam.

Sally Toteff, Ecology's southwest region director, said Ecology may end up reviewing a third oil-by-rail proposal in Grays Harbor County. She said Ecology has met with a company, U.S. Development, about a potential project that would also be located at the Port of Grays Harbor.

The company has yet to submit an application. "We expect we may see an application," Toteff said.