Reader Opinion — Potential of crude oil port begs big questions

This letter comes in response to the recent press release by the Port of Grays Harbor announcing a meeting on Jan. 30, 5:30 p.m. at the Rotary Log Pavilion. Although a question and answer period for citizens was requested at this workshop, there was no mention of citizen question and answer in the press release. When this error was brought to the attention of Kayla Dunlap, the Port’s Public Affairs Specialist — that this needed to be added to the press release — she replied back that the “proponents” didn’t want an open Q&A so there won’t be one. Hmm? As for “proponents,” we assume Ms. Dunlap is referring to the three companies; also the railroads that will be shipping the crude in single hull rail cars.

There are three companies now making plans either for expansion of storage, or new facilities at our Port, substantially increasing rail shipping of crude oil: Westway, currently storing methane at terminal 1, now expanding to receive and store 17 million gallons of crude oil in two (or more) newly proposed tanks (8.4 million each); U.S Development L.L.C of Pasadena, Texas, at Terminal 3, plans for 125-car trains, at least two per day in and out, 650 lbs. crude oil per car — total 191,100 pounds! (Terminal No. 3 was previously planned for use as a coal terminal but stopped by environmental and monetary concerns. Terminal 3 is directly adjacent to the Bowerman Basin National Wildlife Refuge and home of one of the largest bird migratory routes in the U.S); and Imperium Renewables recently leased 11 more acres by the Port to store biodiesel, amount unknown, mainly for shipment to Asia.

All of this proposed crude petroleum will be shipped by rail through our state, and along our waterways in single hull cars, although we do not have statistics on the actual impact — increased rail traffic will certainly be overwhelming to communities and individual households. A full impact statement has not been completed. (Just as with the previously proposed coal trains, there is a fight against a study for the entire impacted area — meaning along the entire rail route, and Washington State, as well as Grays Harbor County).

Citizens for a Clean Harbor has several big concerns and many questions for these companies and Port of Grays Harbor manager Gary Nelson and the Port commissioners:

1. What are the potential environmental impacts resulting from hazardous raw petroleum storage in the event of high winds, high tides, tsunami? What is the direction our Port commissioners are taking Grays Harbor? Can we ship out environmentally friendly goods? As it is, how do you plan to prevent potential disasters?

2. What will be the impact on other tenants at the Port whose businesses will be blocked by the increased rail activity? What will be the impact on citizens of Grays Harbor, specifically, citizens and businesses in Aberdeen and Hoquiam, and all those in communities along the entire route of these increased petroleum shipments?

3. What are the actual numbers of jobs provided by this shipping, storing and loading of millions of gallons of crude oil on tankers or barges for shipment. (Previous numbers from the Port were 75 permanent jobs?)

4. Where is this raw petroleum going? Refineries in the U.S? Asia?” Specifically.

5. Is there sufficient rail capacity? With the recent mud slides on rails and several derailments in Washington — single hull cars invite potential disaster.

6. What is the history and frequency of leakage/accidents with this type of storage so near water, tides, high winds and possible earthquakes? What is the potential for disaster in the Port by tankers, running aground? The Chehalis River with sloughs and estuary system, is a sensitive one of a kind natural phenomena? Impact on “The Natural Area Preserve” waters, fish, birds, and other wildlife?

Someone in power at the Port, or the companies with the big proposals, “proponents,” need to answer the public’s questions and give real input on the proposed increased rail transport of millions of gallons of raw petroleum in single hull rail cars.

So far, the Port has not responded to citizen questions, concerns and requests for public input. We were hoping for that consideration on Jan. 30, at 5:30 p.m. at the Rotary Log Pavilion — Port Commissioners’ “workshop which will include all the players as well as the railway companies.” Although the Port has refused a public question format, as requested, we do look forward to attendance by many concerned citizens regarding impacts of this “crude oil by rail” concept, storage and shipping by tankers from Grays Harbor! The effects this will have on our individual citizens, communities, lands and waters — all natural resources will be immense.

Thank you so much for taking time to read this important information and responding with your attendance at this important meeting.

Carol Seaman, with Citizens for a Clean Harbor, is from Aberdeen.