GRAYS HARBOR WA: Beware Westway’s oil terminal ambitions

Repost from Sightline Institute


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.