Shorelines Hearings Board sides with Quinaults on crude-by-rail projects

The state Shorelines Hearings Board plans to rule that the City of Hoquiam and the state Department of Ecology didn’t account for all relevant factors when issuing permits to two crude-by-rail projects on Grays Harbor.

In siding with the Quinault Indian Nation’s appeal filed in June, the board said in a letter that the Determination of Non-Significance rulings for projects proposed by Westway Terminal Co. and Imperium Renewables, issued by the City of Hoquiam and the state Department of Ecology, will likely be revoked.

The letter, signed by the board’s Administrative Appeals Judge Kay M. Brown, states that a majority of board members will rule that Hoquiam and Ecology didn’t adequately account for the cumulative impacts of all three proposed crude-by-rail projects on Grays Harbor, agreeing with the Quinaults that a proposal by U.S. Development Group should also have been considered. The board’s letter goes on to say the agencies also didn’t properly consider the impacts on rail transportation and shipping when issuing the permits. The city and the department should have required a rail transportation impact analysis and a vessel traffic analysis prior to issuing the determination, Brown wrote.

The board will also inform the City of Hoquiam and the Department of Ecology that the environmental analysis “didn’t appear significantly robust pertaining to seismic hazards, archaeological and cultural resources and oil spill hazards,” she wrote.

Jan Buechler, a legal assistant with the state Environmental Land Use Hearings Office, said the Shorelines Hearings Board will issue a formal decision in the coming weeks.