Category Archives: Marine transport

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
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


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.

Washington State Department of Natural Resources cites wildfire risk to halt oil train plans

Repost from Fire Chief Magazine

Washington agency cites wildland fire risk to halt oil train plans

City of Vancouver also opposes oil transfer terminal
By Phuong Le, The Associated Press, June 30, 2016

SEATTLE — A Washington state agency in charge of protecting millions of acres of state land from wildfires is opposing a proposal to build an oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, citing risks of blazes from increased train traffic and other concerns.

The Department of Natural Resources urged a state energy panel to recommend that the project be rejected, according to a brief filed ahead of hearings that begin Monday.

The city of Vancouver also filed a brief stating its opposition to the project.

The Department of Natural Resources said that based on the evidence, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council cannot meet its obligations to assure the public that there are adequate safeguards and that the project will have minimal environmental impacts.

The council, which oversees the siting and permitting of large energy projects, will make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say.

Beginning Monday, the panel will hear testimony from numerous witnesses during trial-like proceedings lasting several weeks.

“We’re all very concerned about the lack of safety and the probability that bad things will happen around derailments or other accidents,” Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said in an interview Wednesday. “We’re trying to persuade both (the energy council) and the governor that this is not a wise move. It’s not safe.”

In its filing, the Department of Natural Resources said the project would “create an increased risk of wildfire ignition along every mile of track used, both from heat and sparks creased by increased daily rail traffic and from catastrophic accidents.”

It says state firefighting forces aren’t equipped to handle those risks.

Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., operating as Vancouver Energy, want to build a rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal along the Columbia River that can handle an average of 360,000 barrels of crude a day. The facility would receive an average of four crude oil trains a day. The oil would temporarily be stored on site and then loaded onto marine vessels for transport to refineries on the West Coast.

Vancouver Energy says the project can be done safely and will provide jobs and tax revenue as well as reduce dependency on foreign oil.

“We live in the community. We work in the community. We play in the community, so it’s obviously important to us to make sure this is done safely and in an environmentally safe way,” Jared Larrabee, general manager for Vancouver Energy, said in an interview last week.

Tribal, environmental and other groups have intervened in the proceedings to oppose the project. They plan to raise concerns about the risk of train derailments, the potential for a catastrophic oil spill into the Columbia River, public health issues, tribal fishing access and toxic pollution.

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.

Bloomberg: Exxon first major U.S. oil company to ship American crude overseas

Repost from Bloomberg Business

As U.S. Oil Glut Swells, Exxon Mobil Joins Race to Export Crude

By Sheela Tobben & Javier Blas, March 3, 2016 — 12:51 PM PST, Updated on March 4, 2016 — 3:41 AM PST
  • Exxon ships U.S. crude into its refinery in the Mediterranean
  • U.S. crude stockpiles have risen to their highest since 1930

Exxon Mobil Corp. has become the first major U.S. oil company to ship American crude overseas, joining a band of independent traders that are trying to ease a glut at home after a 40-year export ban was lifted.

Exxon shipped U.S. crude into a refinery it owns in Sicily, according to a person familiar with the matter and three traders and ship brokers. The Maran Sagitta oil tanker sailed in early February from Beaumont, Texas, where Exxon operates a refinery. It recently arrived in the Italian port of Augusta.

Until now, trading houses including Vitol Group BV and Trafigura Pte and European-based oil companies have shipped U.S. crude overseas. Exxon is the first American firm that joins the race, which comes as domestic U.S. crude inventories surge to the highest level in nearly 90 years.

“While we do not comment on the details of proprietary commercial agreements, crude exports from the U.S. are now another commercial option that we may elect to exercise from time to time,” Exxon said in an e-mailed statement.

Tracking the Maran Sagitta
Tracking the Maran Sagitta

The shipment is further evidence that U.S. oil exports are picking up, particularly into Europe, after a slow start two months ago. Enterprise Products Partners LP, one of the biggest operators of oil ports in the U.S., told investors this month it alone expected to handle exports of about 13 million barrels in the first quarter, equal to about 145,000 barrels a day. On top of Italy, traders and companies are exporting US crude to Venezuela, Germany, the Netherlands and Israel among other locations.

Oil traders are shipping West Texas Intermediate to refiners in the Mediterranean to profit from the difference in crude prices between the two regions. A glut of WTI has pushed up U.S. stockpiles to a record, depressing the price of the U.S. benchmark relative to European Brent crude.

The exports into Europe follow a congressional deal in December to lift a 1970s-era prohibition on overseas shipments and a movement in relative prices between the U.S. and Europe making exports profitable.

Open Arbitrage

“The arbitrage to European refiners for WTI loading promptly currently seems to be open,” Ben Luckock, global head of crude oil at Trafigura said on Feb 22. “A number of vessels of WTI crude oil have recently been fixed to Europe.”

The overseas sales could relieve pressure on storage capacity in the U.S., after stockpiles rose to nearly 518 million barrels last week, the highest level in official data going back to 1930. Inventories at the biggest U.S. oil storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma climbed to a record above 66 million barrels last week, according to the Energy Information Administration. The site, the delivery point for WTI, has a working capacity of 73 million.

Exxon, together with companies such as Chevron Corp. and Continental Resources Inc., have lobbied vigorously in recent years against the export ban, which blocked all but a fraction of U.S. oil overseas sales. They faced opposition from U.S. domestic refiners, including Valero Energy Corp., which feared the end of the export ban would lift domestic crude prices, undermining their margins.

The ban was imposed in the aftermath of a 1973 to 1974 Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil embargo, which crippled the U.S. economy and brought home the heavy dependence the country had developed on foreign suppliers.