Tag Archives: Quinault Indian Nation

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
web1_Pic-4.jpg
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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    GRAYS HARBOR WA: Beware Westway’s oil terminal ambitions

    Repost from Sightline Institute

    GRAYS HARBOR SHOULD BEWARE WESTWAY’S OIL TERMINAL AMBITIONS

    A new Sightline report exposes the company’s troubled history.

    By Eric de Place, May 24, 2016 at 6:30 am
    Oil train, by Russ Allison Loar, cc.
    Oil train, by Russ Allison Loar, cc.

    A little-known company called Westway has big aspirations in the Pacific Northwest. If the firm gets its way, it will build and operate an oil terminal on the shores of Grays Harbor, Washington, that will bring in large quantities of crude oil by rail, store it in tanks on the shoreline, and ship it out of the bay in tanker vessels. Although Westway’s proposal has generated enormous controversy in the region, the company’s track record and financial underpinnings have gone largely unstudied.

    A new report by Sightline Institute, The Facts about Westway, offers an overview of the company and its plans in the Northwest.

    The Louisiana-based company has much to prove to the community. Many Grays Harbor residents, including the Quinault Indian Nation, worry about the risk of an explosive oil train derailment or a crude oil spill. It’s a reasonable concern, given Westway’s litany of safety violations, including failing to report a hazardous spill at an Illinois facility. These incidents raise serious questions about whether the company can be trusted to safely operate a large crude oil terminal in the Northwest. The company has made matters worse by attempting to short-circuit Washington’s legal permitting and review processes. Sightline’s research also shows that the project rests on shaky finances: Westway has a “junk” bond rating in part owing to the company’s missteps at Grays Harbor.

    What happens with Westway’s oil terminal may have lasting effects on Grays Harbor. If the project goes ahead, the community would live for decades with large quantities of crude oil—brought in by train, stored on the shoreline, and moved out of the bay in tanker vessels—that could jeopardize the region’s economic and ecological health. Before proceeding, the public would be wise to scrutinize the company carefully.

    Read Sightline’s full report, The Facts about Westway.

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      Washington’s Swinomish sue to halt Bakken oil trains

      Repost from High Country News

      Washington’s Swinomish sue to halt Bakken oil trains

      Many communities fight transport of crude oil through their towns; some find legal footing to succeed.

      By Kindra McQuillan, April 16, 2015, Web Exclusive

      To the Coastal Salish people living on Washington’s Swinomish Reservation, water remains an important aspect of daily life. Their ancestors fished for salmon at the mouths of Northwestern rivers and gathered shellfish on Pacific tidelands; modern Swinomish people still pursue these activities from their small reservation on the Puget Sound. Many fish for their own subsistence, and many work as employees of the Swinomish Fish Company, which serves international markets.

      The Swinomish Reservation is surrounded by water. Swinomish Channel and Swinomish Reservation. Photograph courtesy of Joe Mabel

      Even so, for more than 20 years, the Swinomish have consented to strictly regulated use of a railroad that crosses waters on either side of their island reservation. The track, operated by Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC, crosses a swing bridge over Puget Sound’s Swinomish Channel, passes several Swinomish businesses, and then crosses a trestle over Padilla Bay, originally on its way to Anacortes, where it historically delivered lumber. A legal agreement between the tribe and the company limited the amount of traffic that would cross the reservation and waterways to Anacortes and required the company to inform the tribe about its cargo.

      In the 1990s, the last section of railroad to Anacortes was removed, and the tracks ended on March Point, which houses two oil refineries. Burlington Northern fell behind on their annual reports, and the tribe assumed the trains were carrying supplies to the refineries.

      But in 2012, reservation residents began to see 100-car trains—four times as long as the agreed maximum length. Then an Anacortes newspaper reported that the trains were carrying Bakken crude, a volatile oil that has figured in numerous train explosions in recent years, some of them deadly.

      Burlington Northern had not informed the tribe that the cars carried this new, dangerous cargo, and ignored tribal requests to desist. So last week, the tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court. The suit asks the court to reinforce the original car limit and to prohibit the transport of Bakken crude via rail across the reservation.

      “It’s not a matter of if another train will blow up; it’s a matter of when,” Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish tribe, recently told me. “We want to make sure it doesn’t happen in our backyard.”

      Police helicopter view of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the day a Bakken oil train derailed, killing 47 people in 2013. Photograph courtesy of Sûreté du Québec.

      But while many Western communities are grasping for protection against dangerous shipments of crude oil, the Swinomish tribe has a unique instrument for getting it done.

      The instrument has to do with the way tribal trust lands work. Tribal trust land, unlike much off-reservation land, requires consent from both the federal government and the tribe before utilities and railroad companies can build infrastructure. But for a century, Burlington Northern and its predecessor companies broke this law by maintaining a railway on the Swinomish reservation without consent from either. In the late 1970s, the tribe sued the company for a century of trespass, reaching a settlement in 1991 that gave the company an easement for continued use of the railway, albeit with a few restrictions: No more than one train could cross the reservation per day in each direction, none could have more than 25 cars, and Burlington Northern would have to inform the tribe of the trains’ cargo at least once per year.

      Then came the Bakken boom, and with it a dramatic increase in traffic as trains rushed to carry oil from the Bakken to the West Coast, where ports could take the fuel to international markets. After seeing the traffic increase on their reservation, “the tribe had conversations with Burlington Northern,” says Stephen LeCuyer, director of the office of tribal attorney. “But in the meantime the tribe was seeing explosive derailments of Bakken oil trains, and reached the conclusion that they would not consent to an increase of over 25 cars per day.” After the tribe brought their concerns to Burlington Northern, the company said it wanted to negotiate. Meanwhile, the oil trains kept rolling.  That led to last week’s suit.

      Burlington Northern has yet to file their case, but in a statement, company spokesperson Gus Melonas argues that it has a legal obligation to carry the oil.  “As a common carrier, we are obligated under federal law to move all regulated products, which ensures the flow of interstate commerce,” he said in a statement.

      “The Easement Agreement includes a mechanism to address rail traffic volumes to meet shipper needs, and we have been working with the Swinomish Tribe for several years to resolve this issue.” The mechanism Melonas refers to is a stipulation in the agreement, wherein the tribe agrees not to “arbitrarily withhold permission to increase the number of trains or cars when necessary to meet shipper needs.”

      To the tribes, this mechanism is null. Given the dangerous nature of Bakken crude, the tribe is confident it’s not making an arbitrary decision “in any way,” LeCuyer says.

      Their complaint was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and was formally served on April 10. Burlington Northern must now file a response within 21 days of the formal complaint. At that point, the court will issue a schedule for hearings, and the case will eventually be decided by U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik.

      Jan Hasselman, an attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental law group that has handled many cases related to oil transportation, said the Swinomish argument appears “airtight.”

      “BNSF made an agreement with them, and it violated that agreement,” he said. But Hasselman added that the case wouldn’t likely set a precedent for other communities. “Their agreement is pretty unique,” he said. “But this is yet another example of communities all across the country in different ways rising up to the threat of crude oil transportation.”

      Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board issued urgent recommendations calling for the improvement of unsafe oil-tank train cars. Politicians like Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, D, are calling for greater oil train safety.

      Earlier this year, Washington’s Quinault tribe was able to slow shipping of crude-by-rail near their reservation by challenging oil terminals that were being built without an environmental impact statement.

      Meanwhile, the Swinomish Tribe is also testifying against a Canadian pipeline that would carry crude oil to ports in the Salish Sea, the body of water that encompasses the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Puget Sound. Alternative forms of oil transportation, like pipelines and barges, may be safer to human communities, but they would still put fisheries at risk.

      “We, of course, always have concern about tankers hitting our reefs,” Cladoosby says. “Thank God that has never happened. We live on an island surrounded by water. We’ve lived here since time immemorial, and the Creator has blessed us with every species of wild salmon. We work very hard to take care of it.”

      Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby and his father. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Ecotrust.
      Kindra McQuillan is an editorial intern with

      High Country News.

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        Environmentalists play ‘Whac-A-Mole’ to stall crude-by-rail projects

        Repost from Environment & Energy Publishing (EEnews.net)

        Environmentalists play ‘Whac-A-Mole’ to stall crude-by-rail projects

        By Ellen M. Gilmer and Blake Sobczak, March 20, 2015
        (Second of two stories. Read the first one here.) [Subscription required]

        When an oil company’s expansion plans for Pacific Northwest crude by rail suffered a major setback last month, environmentalists spread the news just as quickly as they could Google “Skagit County Hearing Examiner.”

        The little-known local office about an hour north of Seattle holds the keys to land use in the area, and environmental attorneys saw it as the best shot to stall a rail extension considered critical for the delivery of crude oil to a nearby Shell Oil Co. refinery, but potentially disastrous for nearby estuaries and communities.

        The effort was successful: After environmental groups appealed a county-level permit for the rail project, Skagit County Hearing Examiner Wick Dufford sent the proposal back to the drawing board, ordering local officials to conduct an in-depth environmental impact statement to consider the broad effects of increased crude-by-rail throughout the county.

        “The environmental review done in this case assumes that the whole big ball of federal, state and local regulations will somehow make the trains safe. And that if an accident happens, the response efforts described on paper will result in effective clean up, so that no significant adverse effects are experienced,” Dufford wrote. “There is no proven basis for such conclusions.”

        The decision was an incremental but significant victory for environmental groups, sending a signal to industry that its increasing reliance on railed-in crude could face formidable hurdles.

        Skagit County is just one piece of a larger plan to expand crude-by-rail across the country to better connect refineries and ports with prolific oil plays like North Dakota’s Bakken Shale. The use of rail to deliver crude oil has skyrocketed in recent years, rising from 9,500 tank cars of crude in 2008 to nearly 500,000 carloads in 2014, according to industry data. Projects in Washington and other refinery hubs aim to expand facilities and extend rail spurs to handle even more crude deliveries.

        Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said the company is “confident that we can satisfy any remaining issues associated with the project” to add rail capacity to its Puget Sound Refinery in Skagit County.

        “This project is critical to the refinery, the hundreds of employees and contractors who depend on Shell, and the regional economy,” he said. “We do not feel it should be held to a different standard than the crude-by-rail projects of the neighboring refineries that have been approved.”

        Smith added that “we all share the top priority of safety.”

        But the new reality of crude-by-rail traffic has environmentalists on edge. Oil train derailments in Illinois, West Virginia, North Dakota and other places have led to fires, spills and, in one case, lost lives. A 2013 crude-by-rail explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killed 47 people, prompting regulators in the United States and Canada to review the inherently piecemeal rules governing crude-by-rail transportation.

        The federal government has authority over certain details, such as standards for tank cars used to haul crude. But most expansion plans and related environmental concerns are left to local agencies situated along oil routes. The result is a hodgepodge of permitting decisions by local authorities following varying state laws, while a team of environmental lawyers challenges expansion projects one by one.

        “It’s a little bit like Whac-A-Mole because there isn’t a big permitting scheme,” said Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles, who represented six environmental groups in the Skagit County appeal. “It makes it difficult and makes it frustrating for the public.”

        State laws in play

        So far, the Whac-A-Mole approach is working well for environmentalists.

        After three oil refineries in Washington went unopposed in building facilities to receive rail shipments of crude oil, Boyles said environmentalists and community advocates began tracking local land-use agencies more closely.

        Earthjustice and the Quinault Indian Nation successfully challenged two proposed crude projects in Grays Harbor County, southwest of Seattle, leading a review board to vacate permits and require additional environmental and public health studies. A third Grays Harbor project is also preparing a comprehensive environmental review.

        The next project on environmentalists’ radar is in Vancouver, Wash., just across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore., where Savage Cos. and Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co. have proposed building a new terminal to transfer railed-in crude oil to marine tankers bound for West Coast refineries. The Sierra Club, ForestEthics and several other groups earlier this month moved to intervene in the state agency review process for the project, citing major threats to the Columbia River and public health.

        The key to all of these challenges is Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Similar to the National Environmental Policy Act, SEPA requires government agencies to conduct a broad environmental impact statement for any major actions that may significantly affect the environment.

        For projects in Skagit County, Grays Harbor and now Vancouver, state and local officials considering challenges look to SEPA to determine how rigorous environmental review must be, based on whether projects are expected to have major impacts. To Dufford, the Skagit examiner, the answer is plain.

        “Unquestionably, the potential magnitude and duration of environmental and human harm from oil train operations in Northwest Washington could be very great,” he wrote.

        Down the coast in California, environmentalists have an even stronger tool: the California Environmental Quality Act. Considered the gold standard in state-level environmental protection laws, CEQA has already proved useful in halting a crude-by-rail expansion project in Sacramento.

        In Kern County, a team of environmental attorneys is also relying on CEQA to appeal construction permits for the Bakersfield Crude Terminal, a project that would ultimately receive 200 tank cars of crude oil per day. The local air quality board labeled the construction permits as “ministerial,” bypassing CEQA review, which is required only for projects considered discretionary. A hearing is set for next month in Kern County Superior Court.

        Earthjustice attorney Elizabeth Forsyth, who is representing environmental groups in the Bakersfield case, said the state environmental law has been powerful in slowing down the rapid rise of crude-by-rail operations.

        “In California, we have CEQA, which is a strong tool,” she said. “You can’t hide from the law. You can’t site your project out in some town that you think won’t oppose you.”

        Unified strategy?

        Still, the one-at-a-time approach to opposing crude-by-rail growth is undoubtedly slow-going, and progress comes bit by bit.

        Boyles noted that Earthjustice attorneys from Washington to New York frequently strategize to “unify” the issues and make broader advances. On tank cars, for example, environmental groups have come together to press the Department of Transportation to bolster safety rules.

        “That at least is some place where you could get improvements that could affect every one of these proposals,” she said.

        But for expansion projects, the effort must still be localized.

        “You have this giant sudden growth of these sort of projects, and that’s the best we can do at this point to review each of them and comment,” said Forsyth, the California lawyer, who said the end goal is to empower local agencies to control whether proposals move forward and to mitigate the impacts when they do.

        Though labor-intense, advocates say the approach has paid dividends. Projects that would have otherwise flown under the radar are now under rigorous review, and industry players no longer have the option of expanding facilities quietly and without public comment.

        “If you hadn’t had these citizens challenging these projects,” Boyles said, “they’d be built already; they’d be operating already.”

        The delays have set back refiners seeking to use rail to tap price-advantaged domestic crude — particularly in California.

        “The West Coast is a very challenging environment,” noted Lane Riggs, executive vice president of refining operations at Valero Energy Corp., which has faced staunch environmentalist opposition at a proposed oil-by-rail terminal in Benicia.

        Riggs said in a January conference call that “we’re still pretty optimistic we’ll get the permit” for the 70,000-barrels-per-day unloading terminal at its refinery there, although he added that “timing at this point is a little bit difficult.”

        Facing pressure from concerned locals and the Natural Resources Defense Council, Benicia officials last month opted to require updates to the rail project’s draft environmental impact review, further delaying a project that was originally scheduled to come online in 2013.

        A Phillips 66 crude-by-rail proposal in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., has encountered similar pushback. If approved, the project would add five 80-car oil trains per week to the region’s track network. The potential for more crude-by-rail shipments has drawn opposition from several local city councils and regional politicians, despite Phillips 66’s pledge to use only newer-model tank cars (EnergyWire, Jan. 27).

        Some town leaders have also separately taken action against railroads bringing oil traffic through their neighborhoods, although federally pre-emptive laws leave cities vulnerable to legal challenges (EnergyWire, March 19).

        ‘Business as usual’

        Local, often environmentalist-driven opposition is seen as “business as usual” within the refining industry, according to Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.

        “This is just another extension of the environmental playbook to try to obfuscate and delay,” said Drevna, whose trade group represents the largest U.S. refiners. “We’ve been dealing with that for years, and we’re going to continue to be dealing with it.”

        While Drevna said he doesn’t see lawsuits “holding up any of the plans” for refiners to improve access to North American oil production, environmentalists chalk up each slowdown to a victory.

        In New York, a plan to expand a key crude-by-rail conduit to East Coast refiners has been held in limbo for over a year at the Port of Albany, owing to an environmentalist lawsuit and closer public scrutiny.

        The proposal by fuel logistics firm Global Partners LP would have added a boiler room to an existing facility to process heavier crude from Canada. But advocacy groups including Riverkeeper have challenged the company’s operating air permit, calling for more review by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (EnergyWire, Jan. 13, 2014).

        “All of the actions we’ve taken with Earthjustice and others have really ground to a halt DEC’s repeated approvals of these minor modifications,” said Kate Hudson, watershed program director for Riverkeeper. “We have not seen tar sands. … The river has been spared that threat for a year-plus, at this point.

        “We certainly have no regrets,” she said.

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