State combines appeals on Westway and Imperium

The state of Washington has combined the appeals of shoreline permits for a pair of projects that would bring crude oil by rail to storage facilities in Hoquiam and has set aside six days this fall for a public hearing in Tumwater.

The two proposals, from Westway Terminal Company and Imperium Renewables, are at a regulatory standstill. Both have been issued shoreline substantial development permits by the City of Hoquiam and the state Department of Ecology. Westway and Imperium want to expand existing fuel storage capacity. A third project is proposed near Bowerman Field, but there is no decision on a shoreline permit for that one so far.

The appeals come from the Quinault Indian Nation and a coalition composed of 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 Shoreline Hearings Board for both the Westway and Imperium projects.

A combined hearing for the appeals starts Sept. 27, and could run through Oct. 4.

A shoreline substantial development permit is only the first of 13 permits each company must receive before crude oil facilities can begin operating on the Harbor.

Westway’s permit was issued April 27, and appeals were filed in mid-May. Imperium’s permit was issued June 14, and the organizations filed appeals in early July.

The appeals for the two projects are nearly identical. Arthur Grunbaum, a spokesman for the coalition, said this was intentional.

“We filed the same appeal mainly because it’s the same project, the same outcome,” he said, “and that’s bring crude oil to the mouth of the estuary.”

The coalition’s objection to the two projects is based on the presumption that there will be an oil spill if the crude oil facilities are allowed on the Harbor. Grunbaum said the sheer volume of oil that would be transported makes a spill inevitable.

“When you bring in over 2 billion gallons of crude oil to an estuary where it’s never been before, that needs thought,” Grunbaum said. “And what we need is a full Environmental Impact Statement.”

Based on estimates in permit applications, Westway could transport and store up to 766.5 million gallons of crude oil per year and Imperium would transport and store up to 1.2 billion gallons per year. A third company, U.S. Development, could transport and store up to 766.5 million gallons each year at the facility it’s proposed near Bowerman. So if all three facilities are operating at full capacity, 2.4 billion gallons of crude oil could move through the Grays Harbor each year.

U.S. Development isn’t as far along in the permitting process as Westway and Imperium. Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay said the city hasn’t issued them shoreline substantial development permit, and he hasn’t heard from the company in weeks.

The Quinault Indian Nation’s Imperium appeal is also similar to its Westway appeal, arguing that the shoreline substantial development permit violates the State Environmental Policy act.

“The city should not have issued the permit before the City of Hoquiam and the Washington Department of Ecology completed an Environmental Impact Statement,” the appeal petition reads.

The appeals will be reviewed in a public hearing Sept. 27 through Oct. 4. The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. and will be held at 1111 Israel Road in Tumwater.