Proponents of two proposed oil terminal projects in Grays Harbor County must address multiple railroad safety concerns before the project moves forward, the state rail safety regulator said on Tuesday.
In comments submitted on the Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEIS) for the proposed Westway and Imperium oil terminal projects, the Utilities and Transportation Commission listed among its concerns the integrity of the track bringing crude oil to the facilities, the impact on rail crossings, and financial ability of the project owners to address spills or accidents.
Westway Terminal Company LLC owns an existing methanol distribution facility at the Port of Grays Harbor. If approved, the proposed projects would expand the storage capacity for crude oil facilities, adding up to five storage tanks capable of holding up to 8.4 million gallons of crude oil each, and add rail and pipeline infrastructure at the site.
Imperium Terminal Services owns an existing biodiesel production and transport facility adjacent to the Westway facility. It proposes to build up to nine storage tanks to hold up to 3.4 million gallons of liquids each, including crude oil, and add rail and pipeline facilities.
The companies expect to receive Bakken crude oil shipped by rail from the Midwestern United States. They would also load and unload crude oil and other liquids by barge and ship.
The UTC is concerned about the capacity of railroad bridges located between Centralia and the project site to carry heavy trains loaded with volatile Bakken crude oil; the accuracy of identified private railroad crossings along the oil route; failure to address safety at 17 public crossings identified by the UTC as “at-risk crossings”; and the integrity of the track and subgrade along a section which experienced three derailments in 2014.
“The DEIS raises a number of significant safety issues that need to be addressed before this project is considered further,” said UTC Chairman David Danner. “Those issues bear directly on the state’s ability to deal with spills and accidents along the oil train routes.”
State law requires state and local agencies in Washington to consider the environmental impacts that could result from government actions such as permit approval. The City of Hoquiam and the Department of Ecology are the co-lead agencies in evaluating the DEIS. The commission participated throughout the DEIS process, providing input and guidance on rail safety issues.
To read the UTC’s response, click here.
The UTC regulates railroad safety, including approving new grade crossings and closing or altering existing rail crossings, investigating train accidents, inspecting public-railroad crossings, approving safety projects and managing safety education through Operation Lifesaver.