Tag Archives: Grays Harbor Rail Terminal (GHRT)

Protest against crude oil on Grays Harbor draws hundreds

Repost from The Daily World

Protest against crude oil on Grays Harbor draws hundreds

By Bob Kirkpatrick, July 9, 2016 – 1:30am
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Fawn Sharp, center, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, leads protest marchers to Hoquiam City Hall on Friday. (BOB KIRKPATRICK | The Daily World)

Supporters from around the region showed up in full force to protest a proposal to ship crude oil through Grays Harbor and support the Quinault Indian Nation’s Shared Waters, Shared Values Rally in Hoquiam Friday afternoon.

Hundreds gathered at the 9th Street Dock to welcome the tribe’s flotilla of traditional canoes, kayaks and boats and to band together to protest the proposed expansion of fuel storage facilities at the Port of Grays Harbor.

“No crude oil” was the chant as they embarked on a four-block march to city hall to make their stand.

“We area at a critical place here in Grays Harbor, a decision is going to be made soon,” Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Nation said. “The future of the harbor is going to go in one direction or the other. We need to go in the direction of no crude oil in Grays Harbor … forever!”

Sharp told supporters at the rally they needed to consider what was at stake should Westway, an existing fuel storage facility on Port of Grays Harbor property in Hoquiam, be allowed to expand its site to accommodate crude oil shipments.

“We commissioned an economic study and concluded about 10,000 jobs are at risk … tribal and non-tribal fishermen and tourism related (jobs) are in jeopardy,” she said. “The general health and welfare of all citizens in Grays Harbor County will all be compromised by this decision.”

Sharp said the Quinault Nation has an obligation to defend the salmon and natural resources that would also be heavily affected if a large oil spill occurred in local waters.

“The great Billy Frank Jr. (a now-deceased leader of the Nisqually tribe and a fierce champion for tribal fishing rights and the environment) at one point said the salmon deserve to be in healthy waters,” she said. “They can’t get out of the water themselves, so it’s up to us to stand up for them and our precious resources.”

Sharp emphatically stated to the crowd that it is also the duty of the Quinault Nation to pass on the legacy of pure, unpolluted waters to future generations, and said that is why they are taking such a strong stance in this matter.

Hoquiam Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff was on hand to welcome the protesters to city hall.

“I appreciate all the time and effort put in for this demonstration,” Dickhoff said. “I got involved in government because I felt great pride in the possibilities ahead of us as a community … not just here in Hoquiam, but with all of our neighbors. This rally is a testament of shared values and I want to thank you all for coming and sharing your voices and concerns to implement change.”

Larry Thevik, vice president of the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association, was also on hand to express his concerns with the proposed expansion of crude oil storage.

“As everyone knows, Grays Harbor needs more jobs, but our members have determined the benefits from the proposed oil terminals simply do not measure up to the risks they bear,” he said. “Grays Harbor is the fourth largest estuary in the nation, a major nursery area for Dungeness crab, and an essential fish habitat for many species. It is also an area particularly sensitive to the adverse effect of an oil spill.”

Thevik said an oil spill in the harbor would lead to a catastrophic loss of habitat and could potentially impact an area much larger than Grays Harbor.

“The Nestucca oil barge that was hauled off of Grays Harbor spilled about 231,000 gallons, killed 56,000 sea birds, and left a sheen that was seen from Oregon to the tip of Vancouver Island,” he said. “Tankers that would move through Grays Harbor County would be hauling up to 15 million gallons.”

Thevik said the state Department of Ecology claims Washington State has the best spill response in the nation. But he fears the response plan in Grays Harbor wouldn’t measure up.

“No matter how high the paperwork is stacked, the oil spill response plan and spill response assets are simply not going to take care of the problem,” he said. “Booming, which is the first response when a spill occurs, loses its effectiveness in strong current and rough waters. … Currents in Grays Harbor routinely exceed 3.5 knots. Fall and winter gales blow strong and often and unless a spill occurs during daylight hours, with a slack tide in calm seas, booming will offer little defense against a spill.”

He reiterated the potential for damages from an oil spill would far exceed the benefits the terminal would provide and that the profits would go elsewhere and the risks would remain.

Thevik acknowledged tribal and non-tribal fishermen often disagree on how to allocate shared waters and shared marine sources, but said both are united in their resolve to preserve those resources.

“Our survival and future depend on that,” he said. “Working together, we the citizens of Grays Harbor and others across the state must stand up against sacrifice and reclaim our destiny. We must speak with one voice, take our fate back from the hands of poorly informed decision makers and from big oil and just say no!”


Earlier announcement from KPLU 88.5 Jazz, Blues and NPR News

Opponents Of Crude Oil Terminals Rally In Grays Harbor County

By BELLAMY PAILTHORP • JUL 8, 2016
FILE PHOTO / AP IMAGES

Opponents of plans to ship crude oil by rail and barge through Grays Harbor in Southwest Washington will rally in Hoquiam on Friday. They say the risks far outweigh the benefits of the proposal.

The rally was organized by the Quinault Indian Nation and will begin on the water with a flotilla of traditional tribal canoes as well as kayaks and fishing vessels.

The tribe’s president, Fawn Sharp, says they’ll also march to Hoquiam’s City Hall and host an open mic to voice their opposition for bringing oil trains to the area.

“The trains run through our ancestral territory to Grays Harbor and a good portion of the rail tracks are right along the Chehalis River,” she said.

She says the river and the harbor are areas where the Quinault exercise their treaty fishing rights and adding oil cars onto the trains and barges there is too risky.

“If there were either an explosion or an oil spill, that could wipe out not only our fishing industry, but the non-Indian, non-treaty fishing industry,” Sharp said, adding “any damage to that resource would not only be for this generation, but we believe it could take a good 70-100 years to restore what could potentially be lost.”

That’s why their protest will include non-tribal commercial fishermen as well as activists from all over the state. They’re calling on the city of Hoquiam to deny permits for two potential oil terminals.

Among the speakers at the rally will be Larry Thevik, the vice president of the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association. He says Grays Harbor is a delicate ecosystem that would be devastated by a spill.

“All of the activities that depend on that healthy estuary would be in jeopardy. But I’m also concerned, as is evidenced by the recent train derailment in Mosier, for the public safety of our citizens and the communities through which these trains would roll,” Thevik said.  “If we didn’t have the terminals, we wouldn’t have the trains.”

He says he lost a season to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and was also here in 1988 when the Nestucca barge spilled bunker oil near Grays Harbor – and the effects were devastating.

Backers of the proposals say they’re cooperating with the Washington State Department of Ecology and the city of Hoquiam and would build them with the highest commitment to safety. And they argue expansions for crude oil transport would provide new jobs and tax revenue for Grays Harbor.

“We’re confident that we can build this project in a way that protects our neighbors and the environment we all value,” said David Richey, a spokesman for Westway Grays Harbor, in an emailed statement.

The final environmental impact statement for two terminals combined (one from Westway and one from Renewable Energy Group, which was formerly “Imperium”) is expected to be released in August or September. After that, a permit decision by the city of Hoquiam could come within 7 days.

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    Pacific Northwest ports wary of crude by rail – Association to issue position paper

    Repost from The Columbian, Vancouver, WA
    [Editor: Detailed background and history on successful opposition to crude by rail in Oregon and Washington state.  – RS}

    Portland port passes on oil-by-rail terminal

    While Vancouver pursues project, other Northwest ports aren’t so sure

    By Aaron Corvin, January 18, 2015

    At one point, the Port of Portland considered a vacant swath of land (pictured above between the rail tracks and water) near its Terminal 6 as a potential site for an oil-by-rail terminal. Instead, the undeveloped tract is now under consideration for a propane export terminal. (Bruce Forester/Port of Portland)

    photoThe nation’s public ports, focused on attracting industry and jobs, are largely known as agnostics when it comes to pursuing the commodities they handle.

    It doesn’t matter if the shipments are toxic or nontoxic. Ports move cargoes, the story goes. They don’t pronounce moral judgments about them.

    However, at least one line of business is no longer necessarily a lock, at least in the Northwest: the transportation of crude oil by rail.

    Public concerns about everything from explosive oil-train derailments and crude spills to greenhouse gas emissions and the future of life on the planet are part of the reason why.

    In at least two cases in Oregon and Washington, ports decided safety and environmental concerns loomed large enough for them to step back from oil transport. The Port of Portland, for example, eyed as much as $6 million in new annual revenue when it mulled siting an oil-train export terminal, documents obtained by The Columbian show. Ultimately, Oregon’s largest port scrapped the idea because of rail safety and other worries. At one point, it also reckoned that “the public does not readily differentiate between our direct contribution to climate change and actions we enable.”

    In Washington, the Port of Olympia adopted a resolution raising multiple safety, environmental and economic concerns. It noted the July 6, 2013, fiery oil-train accident in Lac Megantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people. And the resolution called on the Port of Grays Harbor to rethink opening its doors to three proposed oil-by-rail transfer terminals.

    To be sure, there doesn’t appear to be a groundswell of Northwest ports swearing off oil or other energy projects. Yet public concerns aren’t lost on the port industry. Eric Johnson, executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association, said he worries that putting certain commodities such as coal under “cradle-to-grave” environmental analyses sets a bad precedent that could gum up the quest for other port cargoes.

    Nevertheless, he said, “we’re concerned about oil-by-rail transportation.” So much so, the association, which represents some 64 ports in Washington, will soon issue a position paper, Johnson said. It will include calls on the federal government to boost the safety of tank cars, and to upgrade oil-spill prevention and response measures. Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board said that assuring the safety of oil shipments by rail would be one of its top priorities for the year.

    In Vancouver, meanwhile, critics pressure port commissioners to cancel a lease to build what would be the nation’s largest oil-by-rail transfer operation. Under the contract, Tesoro Corp., a petroleum refiner, and Savage Companies, a transportation company, want to build a terminal capable of receiving an average of 360,000 barrels of crude per day.

    In addition to the political pressure, legal challenges dog the project, too. One lawsuit goes to the heart of how ports relate to their constituencies: It accuses Vancouver port commissioners of using multiple closed-door meetings to illegally exclude people from their discussions of the lease proposal.

    The port denies the allegations. It has repeatedly said public safety remains its top concern. And it has said the oil terminal won’t get built unless the companies’ proposal wins state-level safety and environmental approvals.

    Yet opponents see increased public attention to the safety and environmental impacts of proposed oil and coal terminals as reason to believe ports can no longer easily don the robes of an agnostic. “People are paying attention,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, one of three environmental groups pressing legal complaints against the Port of Vancouver. “It’s no longer simply the bottom line and the most revenue.”

    In the Northwest, the Port of Portland’s decision to temporarily back off oil transport sharply contrasts with the Port of Vancouver’s choice to pursue it. Oil terminal critics use Portland’s decision to hammer the Port of Vancouver.

    “I don’t see how an oil terminal is unsafe on the Oregon side of the Columbia (River) and safe on the Washington side,” VandenHeuvel said. “The striking thing is how close in proximity the ports of Portland and Vancouver are and the different approach they’ve taken on oil.”

    In an email to The Columbian, Abbi Russell, a spokeswoman for the Port of Vancouver, said the port moves “forward on projects we think have merit and will bring benefit to the port and our community.” She also said the port understands that “every port needs to make decisions that make sense for them.”

    ‘Protests may occur’

    Initially, an oil-train operation made sense to the Port of Portland, too.

    It considered three sites: Terminals 4, 5 and 6. It analyzed the production of crude from the Bakken shale formation in the Midwest and from oil sands in Canada. It assessed business risks, including Kinder Morgan’s plan to repurpose an existing natural gas pipeline to connect West Texas crude to Southern California. And it contemplated the “primary specific concern among governments and community groups” over the potential for “oil spills, whether from unit trains, pipelines from the unit trains to the storage tanks to the dock, and barges.”

    In May 2013 — about a month after Tesoro and Savage announced their oil terminal proposal in Vancouver — the Port of Portland signed a nondisclosure agreement with an unspecified company (the port redacted its identity in documents) to explore locating an oil export facility near Terminal 6.

    Just shy of a year later, however, the port backed away.

    In March 2014, it publicly announced that while it was “interested in being part of an American energy renaissance brought on by this remarkable domestic oil transformation” it did not “believe that we have sufficient answers to the important questions regarding environmental and physical safety to proceed with any type of development at this time.”

    In an email to The Columbian, Kama Simonds, a spokeswoman for the Port of Portland, said “rail car safety was the primary issue” that led the port to temporarily halt its pursuit of an oil-train terminal.

    But the port also worried about damaging “our hard-won positive environmental reputation,” documents show, and noted “other relationships will be affected,” including “other governments, neighborhood associations and civic groups …”

    “National environmental groups will be involved — Sierra Club, Bill McKibben’s 350.org, Greenpeace,” it also noted. “Protests may occur.”

    And the Port of Portland was aware of the controversy that engulfed its neighbor, remarking that “as seen with the Tesoro project at the Port of Vancouver and other energy-related projects at several other ports on the river system and along the coastline, these kinds of announcements can quickly create opposition, controversy and protests.”

    Unlike the Port of Vancouver, whose three commissioners are elected by Clark County voters, the Port of Portland’s nine commissioners are appointed by Oregon’s governor and ratified by the state Senate.

    The Port of Portland’s Simonds said Gov. John Kitzhaber wasn’t kept informed of the port’s initial pursuit of an oil-by-rail facility and that “we are not aware of any formal statement issued to the port from the governor’s office.”

    Nowadays, she said, the port pursues “other energy-related projects” and focuses on Canadian company Pembina Pipeline’s plan to build a propane export facility near Terminal 6. Propane would be brought to the facility by train and eventually shipped overseas. The propane terminal would use the same property that the Port of Portland had considered for an oil-by-rail transfer operation. That project is also expected to face opposition from environmental groups.

    Josh Thomas, a spokesman for the Port of Portland, said the port is “extremely discerning” when thinking about energy-sector opportunities. After rejecting coal and temporarily halting oil, he said, the port is now working with Pembina. “Propane has an excellent track record as a clean and safe alternative fuel,” Thomas said, “with a good climate story, displacing many dirtier traditional fuels.”

    ‘We are not alone’

    If the Port of Portland only temporarily dropped the idea of an oil-train venture, the Port of Olympia in Washington went further.

    In August 2014, the Olympia port commission voted 2-1 to approve a resolution expressing “deep concern” about the threat to “life, safety, the environment and economic development” of hauling Bakken crude by train “through our county.”

    The resolution urged the Port of Grays Harbor — some 50 miles west of the Port of Olympia — to reconsider allowing three proposed oil-transfer terminals. It also called on the city of Hoquiam to reject construction permits for the projects.

    The Olympia port’s resolution didn’t sit well with the executive committee of the Washington Public Ports Association. The committee shot a letter — signed by five port commissioners, including Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver — to Port of Olympia Commissioner George Barner. The letter chastised the resolution as meddling in another port’s lawful business. “We can only presume that if another port were to do this to the Port of Olympia that you would be rightly, and deeply, offended,” according to the letter, signed by Oliver, Port of Seattle Commissioner Tom Albro, Port of Benton Commissioner Roy Keck, Port of Everett Commissioner Troy McClelland and Port of Chelan County Commissioner JC Baldwin.

    Barner and his colleague, Port of Olympia Commissioner Sue Gunn, who cast the other “yes” vote for the resolution, returned fire with a letter of their own. “As public officials, we have a responsibility to protect our citizenry and our natural resources,” they wrote in their letter addressed to Albro. “We are not alone in our concern over the passage of crude oil by rail through our community, as no less than sixteen other jurisdictions have passed similar resolutions, including the cities of Anacortes, Aberdeen, Auburn, Bellingham, Chehalis, Edmonds, Hoquiam, Kent, Mukilteo, Seattle, Spokane, Vancouver, and Westport; King and Whatcom Counties, and the Columbia River Gorge Commission.”

    The jousting letters illustrate that not all ports think alike when it comes to how they do business.

    Although the Port of Portland didn’t join the Port of Vancouver in seeking a share of the vast quantity of crude coming onto the nation’s rails, there appears to be no acrimony between them.

    Shortly before the Port of Portland said last March that it wasn’t going after an oil-by-rail project, it gave the Port of Vancouver a heads-up about it.

    “We wanted to make sure you had visibility to it prior to its release as the port is effectively making and taking a public position on crude-by-rail,” Sam Ruda, chief commercial officer for the Port of Portland, wrote in an email to Port of Vancouver CEO Todd Coleman and Chief Marketing/Sales Officer Alastair Smith.

    Ruda offered to discuss the matter with them.

    “I am doing this on behalf of Bill Wyatt (the Port of Portland’s executive director) who is traveling in Vietnam,” Ruda wrote in his Feb. 28, 2014 email. “At the same time, I have been very involved in this matter and am prepared to offer you perspectives and context as to why we are doing this at this time.”

    Russell, the spokeswoman for the Port of Vancouver, said Coleman and Smith thanked Ruda for the heads-up when they later spoke with him. “These types of courtesy communications are common,” she said. “There was no additional discussion related to the statement.”

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      Washington State: rail safety regulators express concerns

      Repost from Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission

      Rail safety regulators express concern over proposed Grays Harbor Rail Terminal

      November 3, 2014

      OLYMPIA, Wash. – Rail safety regulators in Washington state submitted comments today expressing concern about the proposed Grays Harbor Rail Terminal (GHRT) in response to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) scoping.

      The Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) sent a letter to GHRT addressing specific concerns and requesting rail safety evaluations during the EIS process.

      GHRT has proposed to construct a new rail facility at the Port of Grays Harbor. The facility would accommodate an average of 45,000 barrels per day of bulk materials, primarily, various types of crude oil for export.
      The UTC recommends that the EIS require comprehensive track and safety evaluations and appropriate upgrades be implemented prior to any operation of trains hauling crude oil on this line.
      The letter states:
      “In the UTC’s view, the EIS should evaluate the potential impact of the GHRT on the safety of the public on and around all railroad lines and crossings that would be used to deliver crude oil to the facility. Currently, up to six trains per day serve the Port of Grays Harbor. Increasing the train traffic could potentially require upgrades to the rail infrastructure, including upgrading track, new crossings, or new or expanded sidings or upgrades to existing crossings.”
      The letter also references three derailments of train cars that occurred during a 16-day period along the rail line between Centralia and the Port of Grays Harbor earlier this year. The frequency of the derailments is a significant concern, and the UTC recommends that the EIS require comprehensive track and safety evaluations, along with appropriate updates, before any operations of trains hauling crude oil on this line.
      The commission addresses the issue of blocked crossings due to increased train traffic. Blocked crossings pose an inconvenience to the public and can also increase public safety risks by preventing emergency response vehicles from reaching emergencies on the other side. The UTC recommends that the EIS evaluate and offer mitigation strategies for blocked crossings along the line between Centralia and the GHRT.
      Finally, the UTC recommends the EIS include an in-depth analysis of all railroad crossings between Centralia and Hoquiam. The analysis should review whether there are grade crossings along all routes that require additional warning devices; supplemental safety devices; modification of existing warning devices; crossing closures/consolidation or grade separation. UTC staff should be involved in the analysis.
      The UTC regulates railroad safety, including approving new grade crossings and closing or altering existing rail crossings, investigating train accidents, inspecting public-railroad crossings, approving safety projects, and managing safety education through Operation Lifesaver.
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