REG drops plans for shipping crude oil in Grays Harbor

Firm eyes expansion of biodiesel facilities

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Renewable Energy Group has abandoned plans to handle the shipping of crude oil by rail in Grays Harbor County.

Environmental groups opposed to the project circulated word Wednesday of the project’s demise. In late November, the Iowa-based company informed state and local agencies that it will no longer pursue handling crude oil shipments but said it will still pursue an expansion at its facilities for biodiesel production.

REG had proposed a terminal designed to handle 78,000 barrels of oil per day that would have been the largest of the three proposed crude-by-rail facilities in the Grays Harbor city of Hoquiam. It purchased the property from Imperium Renewables, Inc., which had initially proposed the project, during the environmental review process in the summer of 2015. REG and Westway Group LLC, which was proposing a similar crude-by-rail terminal project, were being reviewed at the same time and filed a joint draft Environmental Impact Statement to the state.

The projects were met with fierce public opposition from environmental groups and tribal governments, with more than 100,000 comments filed during the environmental review process for the terminals.

REG’s Grays Harbor facility is one of the largest biodiesel producers in the county.

Anthony Hulen, REG executive director of corporate affairs, confirmed the company’s decision but declined to comment on future plans for the expansion. “We at REG are happy to be producing lower carbon fuel at Grays Harbor and are looking forward to continue building relationships with local and regional stakeholders,” he said.

Still, the application to expand the terminal remains open. In the same letter that announces their plans to drop oil, REG said it would continue to provide information to Hoquiam and the Washington Department of Ecology about its project. Westway hasn’t announced changes to its terminal expansion plans. A third company, US Development, is backing another terminal, but could not be reached for comment.

Kristen Boyles, a lawyer for the environmental organization Earthjustice and the council representing the Quinault Indian Nation, was pleased by the company’s decision to drop oil, but is waiting to know what REG’s next move will be.

“That project was for 78,000 of barrels of oil per day. I don’t know what they’re going to do,” she said. “Once you take that out, it’s a brand new project. That’s one of the reasons why we want to continue to talk to the company.”

Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, said the decision shows REG was listening to the public, and the tribe looks forward to working with REG and other businesses in the future.

“REG’s decision is a strong affirmation the company took to heart the concerns of thousands of people who spoke out about the dangers of crude oil storage and transport to our communities and waterways,” Sharp said in a press release.