Some Whatcom County environmental folks want to help our neighbors in Skagit County fight the expansion of rail traffic to the Shell refinery near Anacortes. Due to early action on the part of Skagit citizens, the huge refinery complex on March Point has been forced into an environmental review of its proposed rail yards. This is similar to the expansion that was allowed without any EIS at Whatcom County refineries.
On this coming Wednesday evening, Oct 28, at 7:30 p.m. group organizer, Claudia DeWees, will host a meeting and slideshow at the RE Sources community room on the corner of Broadway and Meridian. All are welcome. In the words of the group's notice, "Fact sheets and comment cards will be provided. You can make a comment on the spot. Public comments submitted during the scoping process will widen the investigation of this threat but there is not much time. The comment process ends Nov. 5th."
The Washington Department of Ecology is taking comments on the environmental review up to November 5.
The concern is not only the increased train traffic but also the destruction of the Padilla Bay area if one of these 110-car trains derails and either spills oil into the bay, or even worse, explodes as have other Bakken oil trains. The largest heron colony in Washington state is located 619 feet from the railroad tracks, on March Point. An explosion would wipe it out. There are also sensitive shellfish grounds in Padilla Bay which could be wiped out from even an oil spill. Shell plans to bring 5 or 6 trains a week over the Padilla Bay causeway and past the heron colony.
The oil industry, the railroad industry and the federal government have all shown themselves to be very slow at making safety improvements while very good at pointing the finger to each other and even their investors in railroad tank cars as being responsible for derailments, oil spills and explosions. Thus, the serious concern of citizens and the effort to push the Department of Ecology into either prohibiting the rail yard expansion or imposing serious and effective safeguards.
For the past several decades, most crude oil has not come by rail. With the development of the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through fracking, there is a push to bring this oil across the mountains and up the coast to Skagit and Whatcom county refineries.