The oil company Phillips 66 wants to increase the number of tanker ships carrying crude oil across San Francisco Bay to its refinery in Rodeo — from 59 to 135 tankers per year. They have also proposed increasing the average amount of oil unloaded at Rodeo from 51,000 barrels to 130,000 barrels a day.
More than doubling the number of oil tankers would increase the risk of oil spills in the Bay. Oil spilled in the water can kill birds and other wildlife, make the Bay unsafe for recreation, and contaminate local beaches.
Plus, the company’s proposal raises other concerns. The increased tanker traffic would likely carry dirty, heavy tar sands oil from Canada. This type of oil is difficult, if not impossible, to remove after a spill.
In 2010, when tar sands oil spilled into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, response crews were unable to completely remove the oil from the riverbed, even after five years of expensive cleanup efforts. If tar sands oil spilled in San Francisco Bay, it could harm wildlife in the water nearby and smother bottom-dwelling creatures that are critical to the Bay’s food chain.
The Phillips 66 refinery already has a poor track record of oil spills. In September 2016, oil was spilled there during the unloading of a tanker ship, causing large oil slicks in the northern San Francisco Bay. Over 100 residents near the refinery sought treatment at hospital emergency rooms for exposure to fumes that were later linked to the oil spill.
And then again, in September of this year, a small spill at the Phillips 66 refinery wharf left a 20 foot by 20 foot oil sheen on the Bay’s water. The impacts of small spills like this can accumulate and harm the overall health and resilience of the Bay and its wildlife.
Phillips’ needs a modified permit from the Bay Area Air Quality District to proceed with the expansion, and the district is beginning work on an environmental impact report for the proposal. Following that process, the board of directors will vote on whether to proceed.
In communities near the refinery, public opposition to Phillips’ expansion proposal is building. Baykeeper, a nonprofit advocating for the health of the Bay ecosystem, is working alongside community and environmental organizations to oppose any increase of oil tankers on San Francisco Bay. So far, over 24,000 Bay Area residents have responded to action alerts and told responsible agencies to reject the proposal.
A similar coalition effort succeeded in stopping two previous proposals for expansion of Bay Area oil refining. Along with partner organizations and many concerned community members, Baykeeper stopped Valero Energy Corporation’s attempt to expand its rail yard and bring more oil by train to its Benicia refinery. That proposal would have led to a risk of oil spills and possible accidents along the Bay shoreline and in communities near railroad tracks. Our coalition also stopped a planned crude oil storage facility that was proposed by the energy infrastructure corporation WesPac for Pittsburg.
Whether we live close to or far from a refinery, every Bay Area resident has a stake in the number of tankers carrying crude oil across the Bay. Our communities and many local businesses rely on a healthy Bay. And for wildlife that depends on the Bay, it’s a matter of life and death. By saying no to the risk of more oil spills on San Francisco Bay, we can make sure this place we call home is protected for future generations.
Gorge leaders oppose Vancouver oil terminal as hearings wrap up
By Patrick Mulvihill, August 5, 2016
Gorge leaders spoke out against a proposed oil-by-marine terminal in Vancouver as hearings over the project’s fate came to a close July 29.
Washington State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) heard closing arguments for an environmental review of the terminal proposed by Vancouver Energy, a venture spearheaded by Tesoro Corp.
EFSEC is charged with recommending whether Washington Gov. Jay Inslee should approve or reject the 360,000-barrel per day oil hub at the Port of Vancouver, and panel’s decision is expected in late 2016.
At Friday’s hearing — the final chance for public oral testimony — local elected leaders and environmental advocates evoked the recent memory of Mosier, where a crude oil bearing train derailed and caught fire on June 3.
Arlene Burns, mayor of Mosier, gave the panel a stark depiction of the aftermath.
“We’re really still exhausted,” she said. “This is going to be an ongoing, long-term process that we’re going to be dealing with,” Burns said.
She noted that Mosier’s groundwater had been contaminated by oil during the spill. Drinking water has been declared safe, but concerns remain for the rainy season washing out remaining oil in the ground.
Peter Cornelison, a Hood River City Council member and field representative for Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, argued the risks of a new terminal — and boosted train traffic — would affect all river communities.
Proponents of the terminal highlighted economic benefits and stressed a need for United States’ independence in the oil industry. They said the terminal would be held to regulatory safeguards.
“We believe the evidence has demonstrated that this project is necessary to secure a strong sustainable reliable supply of energy for the citizens of Washington,” Jay P. Derr, an attorney representing Tesoro, said.
“We ask the council to recognize and remember the benefits the Port of Vancouver provides, and work hard to avoid … hurting those structures and processes that allow the port to provide those benefits to the community,” said David Bartz, a port attorney.
Most testimony disagreed with the terminal’s backers about the project’s safety and economic value.
Washington Attorney General’s Office came out last week against the terminal. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the potential benefits of the project are “dramatically outweighed by the potential risks and costs of a spill.”
The cities of Vancouver and Spokane also voiced opposition, a sentiment expressed in recent months by letters and resolutions by tribes, advocacy groups and governments throughout the region.
Lauren Goldberg, staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper, said the local group hopes in light of the Mosier derailment, EFSEC will recognize the risk of another fiery oil train wreck in the Columbia Gorge.
Both sides in the issue will now file closing written briefs, ending testimony. EFSEC is expected to issue a decision in late 2016. From there, Inslee will make a decision that can be appealed in state supreme court.
Protest against crude oil on Grays Harbor draws hundreds
By Bob Kirkpatrick, July 9, 2016 – 1:30am
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!”
Opponents Of Crude Oil Terminals Rally In Grays Harbor County
By BELLAMY PAILTHORP • JUL 8, 2016
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.