U.S. Development has completed its application to build a new facility at the Port of Grays Harbor to ship and store crude oil. They plan to go through the same project review process as Westway Terminals and Imperium Renewables rather than skipping to the environmental impact statement, where the other two companies ended up after a lengthy appeal process.
Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay said the company, which plans to operate locally as Grays Harbor Rail Terminal, submitted its application and fees Tuesday.
“They are requesting the lead agency to make an environmental determination,” Shay said. “They’re basically leaving it up to the city and (the Department of Ecology) to determine if an EIS will be necessary.”
“Grays Harbor Rail Terminal has submitted permitting applications to the appropriate regulatory agencies, and they will determine the correct process for our facility,” spokeswoman Charla Skaggs said.
It’s the same process Westway and Imperium went through last year, where the co-lead agencies initially issued a mitigated determination of non-significance under the State Environmental Protection Act. That meant the city and Ecology felt at the time the mitigation efforts proposed by Imperium and Westway would make up for any environmental impacts.
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 — each filed appeals with the state Shorelines Hearings Board.
In November, the 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 studies were in progress at the time of the application.
The ruling didn’t expressly say the companies had to do an EIS, and initially they said they would not, but both companies decided in January to do the full review.
Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice representing the Quinaults, said it’s good news that Imperium and Westway have decided on the more rigorous analysis.
“I think that was the course laid out for them by the Shorelines Hearings Board,” she said. “I think for a project with these sorts of impacts and potential risks, that’s precisely what needs to happen.”
The companies estimate the EIS will take about a year to complete.
The first phase was completed May 27. Hoquiam and Ecology received more than 22,000 comments on the scope of issues the EIS should cover, and are currently in the process of reviewing the comments.
As for U.S. Development’s proposal, a new project manager will be assigned and the city and Ecology will have to come to a new agreement on working as co-lead agencies.
“Based upon the volume (of oil proposed), Ecology would be the lead agency under statute, but we have discussed being co-leads again,” Shay said.