First steps in review of oil projects

The City of Hoquiam and the state Department of Ecology have selected the consultant that will shepherd oil terminal proposals at the Port of Grays Harbor through the environmental review process.

City Administrator Brian Shay presented the projects’ progress at the Port Commission’s meeting Tuesday. On Jan. 22, Imperium Renewables and Westway Terminals announced they would complete an Environmental Impact Statement, an in-depth process expected to take about a year.

Shay said the co-lead agencies went out to bid for a potential consultant in early January and expect to award the contract to ICF Jones &Stokes at the Feb. 24 Hoquiam City Council meeting.

The Sacramento, Calif.-based firm specializes in environment and natural resources consulting, and is currently the consultant on the Millennium Bulk Terminals proposed coal export facility in Longview. Shay said the firm has handled projects receiving up to 200,000 public comments.

“So they are very experienced doing environmental review, EIS review, and I think they’re going to do a great job,” he said.

So far, the co-leads expect to do a 30-day scoping process where they ask for public comment on issues the environmental review should encompass. The EIS will already include issues raised by environmental groups in their challenge to the state Shorelines Hearings Board.

“We’re hoping that this will scale back the amount of comments, but the consultant will manage all the comments, the responses and the EIS,” Shay said.

Asked by Commission President Stan Pinnick on possible further challenges after the EIS process, Shay said the hope is that even if groups still have concerns after the review is complete, a challenge would be less likely to succeed with a completed EIS.

In hindsight, Shay said, the companies “might be under construction now, had that route been taken before.”

In November, the Shorelines Hearings Board rejected a mitigated determination of non-significance that had been granted by the co-lead agencies.

The Quinault Indian Nation and a coalition of environmental groups — Friends of Grays Harbor, the Grays Harbor Audubon Society, Citizens for a Clean Harbor, the Surfrider Foundation and the Sierra Club — filed appeals with the state over the determination of non-significance, saying more review was required. The co-lead agencies believed the companies’ plans did enough to mitigate potential environmental impacts under the State Environmental Policy Act.

The Shoreline Hearings Board sent the permits back to the city and Ecology. The ruling also ordered the companies complete rail and vessel traffic analyses before moving forward.

The ruling didn’t expressly say the companies had to do an EIS, and initially they said they would not.


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