Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Press Release

For Immediate Release: May 27, 2014

Contacts: Kerry McHugh, 206.902.7555
Arthur (R.D.) Grunbaum, Citizens for a Clean Harbor, (360) 648-2476

Concerns raised about proposed Grays Harbor oil terminals

 Threat of oil train explosions and oil spills cited as public comment period for proposals closes
HOQUIAM, WA – Citizens from across Washington continue to voice significant concerns about proposed oil terminals in Grays Harbor as the public comment period comes to an end today. Comments raised questions about the risk of oil train derailment, explosions, and the impact of an oil tanker spill on Grays Harbor County’s economy. 
“Oil terminals, oil tankers, and oil trains are a bad deal for Grays Harbor,” said Arnie Martin, President of Grays Harbor Audubon Society. “The risk to our communities from oil trains and the risk to our economy from an oil spill are just too great. As we saw with the Exxon Valdez and the BP Deepwater Horizon spills, just one accident can be devastating and long-lasting.”
Concern over the proposed oil ports drew concern from Spokane and even as far away as Montana. 
“These proposals in Grays Harbor would have very real impacts on Spokane,” said Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart. “More trains mean increased risk of explosion, increased risk to our first responders, and increased risk to our community.”  Spokane would face a huge increase in oil train traffic, since it sits at a choke point for trains headed to port cities throughout Washington.

There were two public hearings for the proposed terminals, in Centralia and Hoquiam. At both hearings, participants were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposals. Residents of the Inland Northwest held a People’s Hearing in Spokane last week in order to voice their opposition to the proposals and their concerns about oil train impacts on their communities. Additional concerns included traffic jams and public health concerns stemming from a high volume of train traffic.
"These oil trains will bi-sect Lewis County's four largest cities with highly flammable cargo at all hours of the day, hurting our businesses and exposing residents to unnecessary risk," noted Phil Brooke, a resident of Centralia and Director of Risk Management for a large local employer.
Grays Harbor has three separate crude-by-rail proposals pending. Westway Terminal Company, Imperium Terminal Services, and U.S. Development Group each have proposed projects that would ship tens of millions of barrels of crude oil through Washington to Grays Harbor each year. The public comment period closing today is for the EIS scoping that Washington State Department of Ecology and the City of Hoquiam conducted for the Westway and Imperium proposals.
These proposals would result in crude oil coming from North Dakota to Washington via trains through Spokane, along the Columbia River, up through Centralia, and into Hoquiam. The oil would then be transferred onto tankers and pass through Grays Harbor and onto refineries or directly for export. 
Over the past year, there has been a growing opposition to these proposals. In Summer 2013, the Quinault Indian Nation, Friends of Grays Harbor and Grays Harbor Audubon won a ruling by the Shoreline Hearings Board requiring the Department of Ecology and City of Hoquiam to conduct a thorough review of the proposals. Since that ruling and as more information has become public around oil train accidents and the risks of spills, residents and community groups have been voicing concerns about the impacts of the proposals.
“The Quinault Nation and citizens throughout our region have no choice but to stand strong against oil in Grays Harbor,” said Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp. “As we have consistently stated, our people and our treaty-protected natural resources are jeopardized by these oil shipments. This danger is real. We have invested millions of dollars to protect and restore the ecological integrity of our region, and we will not allow Big Oil to destroy it.”
The past year has seen some devastating accidents:
·         In July, forty-seven people were killed when a crude oil train derailed in a small town in Canada’s Quebec Province just across the border from Maine.
·         Multiple explosions sent mushroom clouds of flames hundreds of feet into the air forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate when a 106-car crude oil train derailed in Carrolton, North Dakota in December, 2013.
·         Last month, a derailed train sent burning crude oil into the James River in Lynchburg, Virginia. “The river was on fire,”said deputy city manager Bonnie Syrcek. “We are very fortunate that the cars that derailed toward the river, instead of toward the city.”

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