Friday, August 21, 2015

Letters to the Editor on Crude by Rail by Grays Harbor Residents

Updated: add'l letter added at end

Grays Harbor poor choice for locating crude oil terminals

BY LARRY THEVIK  Aug. 21, 2015    Special to The Olympian 

The dangers of oil trains have understandably dominated headlines about proposed oil terminals in Washington state. As a long-time crab fisherman out of Grays Harbor, I’m very concerned about another risk that has so far gotten far less attention yet deserves equal time in the public spotlight: the consequences of a major oil spill for our local economy, environment and way of life.

Grays Harbor is an essential fish habitat for many species and a major nursery area for Dungeness crab. The tribal and non-tribal average crab catch value, based on state and tribal estimates, is $44 million a year. The annual economic benefit is $80 million to $150 million, depending on the multiplier used.

In 2014 Washington residents took an estimated 4.1 million trips to the Washington Coast spending $481 million, according to a Surf Rider Foundation study. More than one-third of those visits were to Grays Harbor County to enjoy all our coastal waters have to offer.

The state is expected to soon release for public comment a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the first two of three crude oil terminal proposals in Grays Harbor.

No crude oil presently moves through Grays Harbor. Yet, if the terminals are built, oil tanker and oil barge traffic is expected to increase vessel visits by 450 percent, adding 750 oil-vessel bar transits annually. The Grays Harbor shipping channel is narrow, shallow, subject to strong current flows, and has limited staging area for ships and tugs.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stated, “Grays Harbor is an area particularly sensitive to the adverse effects of oil spills.” The introduction of such huge volumes of oil transport and oil vessel traffic in an area not suited to them in the first place is inviting disaster. Grays Harbor is simply a poor choice for oil terminals.

Between trains, tanks, ships and barges, up to 115 million gallons of oil will be in Grays Harbor at any one time. We know from disasters like the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico and Exxon Valdez in Alaska that one major oil spill can be devastating: contaminating coastlines, killing fish and wildlife, destroying livelihoods and ruining property values. The damage can last for decades, even generations.

One major spill is one too many. The proposed oil terminals threaten not just Grays Harbor, but our state’s entire coast, a place cherished by millions. Those who care must engage in the DEIS comment process to tell our state leaders to put our waterways, our jobs, and our communities ahead of oil companies’ relentless pursuit of expanding markets and profits at our peril.

Larry Thevik has fished Grays Harbor and the coast for 45 years in pursuit of salmon, halibut, tuna, prawns and Dungeness crab. He is vice president of Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association.

Margin of safety is thin

I am new to this area, so at the risk of sounding redundant, I’d like to address the problem with railroad tankers in general that are carrying crude oil every day and will be here unless we do more to stop it.
These antiquated DOT-111 tankers were built in the 1960s and are less than a half inch in thickness; 7/16 of an inch to be exact. There are approximately 200,000 of them out there and approximately 78,000 of them still hauling crude oil.

Safety flaws were vehemently pointed out in the early ’90s but fell upon deaf ears.
These railroad tankers are no joke. They are old, weak, poorly designed and are coming to our county unless we do something to stop it. Poorly designed vessels such as these cause people to die and communities to wither.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has compared the car to “a ticking time bomb.”
The CPC-1232 is an upgraded car but certainly not by much. It still has the same thickness as the DOT-111, so no improvement there. It was one of the 105 cars in the CSX train derailment in Lynchburg, VA., April 2014 and ultimately spilled 30,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil into the James River. That same type of tanker apparently was leaking crude oil as it came across Idaho into Washington in January of this year.
There is a new tanker being built in Mexico which has a thickness of 9/16th of an inch. U.S. railroad corporations are not giving any indication they will even consider spending money to upgrade. Unless forced to by Congress to scrap the DOT-111 tanker, it will live on.
At this point railroads are being asked to upgrade but not forced to. So there are no new and improved rail tankers coming down the pike any time soon.
One can safely assume that the two 7/16 inch shelled tankers I spoke of are the ones that what will be carrying the crude through Grays Harbor County if big oil is allowed here. We will be living with them and their volatility every day. I don’t want to live here having to hold my breath because it really is a case of when (a spill or explosion will happen) not if.
This is my reason for writing today. Please voice your opposition before it’s too late.
Remember that Big Oil doesn’t know us as a community and doesn’t want to know us. They just want what we have. And in this case, it’s our backyards.

Joan Morabito
Ocean Shores

Update: this letter was published by the Daily World on 8/18/15 but not posted on their website


I am writing to congratulate the City of Aberdeen on adopting a six month moratorium on crude oil storage, affirming the enormous risk and little gain associated with oil storage and transport in Grays Harbor. The Port of Grays Harbor is a poor choice for shipping Canadian tar-sands crude oil or US Bakken crude oil. The proposed crude oil trains would travel through Aberdeen and the terminals would be sited within the population center of Hoquiam, creating substantial risk from fire or explosions Tank overflows on average occur every 3,300 tank fillings causing several explosions and fires.  There is also the risk of spillage, accident, and fire with any train-to-tank transfer, which could occur at any of three locations within the city of Hoquiam.  The potential for disaster is real.

The Port is built on landfill in a tsunami alert zone, whose land and waters are battered by serious storms and subject to flooding.  The pilings supporting the terminals are unlikely to withstand a tsunami resulting in nearly certain tank rupture, fire, and explosions spreading to the entire complex.

Where is the gain to the communities of Grays Harbor?  The three companies who plan to build facilities to receive, store and ship crude oil from Hoquiam would create tank farms with over a 110 million gallon capacity. Initially, there would be jobs constructing the tank farms, but once completed, those in the longshore industry predict a net loss because the current more labor intensive work of handling commodities in the Port would be replaced by the largely automated work of unloading and loading oil.  There are other important economic impacts to consider, including the effects of steadily increasing heavy, slow and over one mile long 100 car trains, each carrying approximately 2.9 million gallons of volatile crude. Such long slow trains would interrupt the flow of traffic to businesses, homes, and schools, and would interfere with emergency responses.

Fishing and tourism industry are major components of the Twin Harbor’s economy.  The risk is high for leaks during transport, and spills during loading and unloading, contaminating our waters and devastating these industries for many years.  How can we run the risk of losing our thriving seafood industry jobs for a mere handful of crude oil jobs?

The chemical fumes (vapors and gases) vented from the oil storage tanks with floating lids, as well as fumes emitted during the loading and unloading of trains and tankers will impact Hoquiam and Aberdeen and  surrounding towns affecting citizen health and  diminishing property values. Exposure to this air pollution includes increased risks of cancers, stroke and heart attack, asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and neuro-developmental and behavioral disorders in children.

I wish also to welcome Renewable Energy Group, the new owners of Imperium Renewables, with the sincere hope that they will hold as a priority the long-term welfare of the persons, economy, the bay and the beautiful surroundings of Grays Harbor.

Kathy Schaefer

1 comment:

  1. Well said. As a resident of Montesano, I have all the above concerns about these train to tank facilities. I am very concerned about the people of the Harbor and how these would impact our community.