Northwest petrochemical projects have hit stumbling blocks across the region, but a big one on the north Puget Sound is still moving forward, and time is running out to stop it. Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) plans to expand its Anacortes oil refinery to add a petrochemical production facility to serve export markets. It’s a project that could pose serious risks for the Salish Sea, but the public has a limited opportunity to weigh in with written comments—from right now until November 1 at 4:30 pm.
A lesser-known liquid petrochemical, xylene, is the principal chemical precursor in the production of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used for making plastic bottles, polyester fibers, food packaging, paint, rubber, solvents, and other products. It is created from a partially refined crude oil product called reformate that is often produced from light oil, such as Bakken shale oil, which yields particularly high levels of petroleum naphtha. The Anacortes facility would be capable of producing 15,000 barrels of xylene per day for export, primarily to Asia, representing roughly a 9 percent increase in total US xylene production.
Xylene is dangerous to public health. Short-term exposure to xylene is known to cause difficulty breathing, impaired memory, and delayed response to visual stimulus, among other issues. At very high levels of short-term exposure, people have died. Long-term exposure can lead to depression, insomnia, tremors, and worse.
Find this article interesting? Support more research like this with a gift!
Xylene shipping also creates yet another spill risk for the Salish Sea, and xylene tanker mishaps have caused tremendous damage in the past, such as the 2007 spill on the Mississippi River. The Tesoro expansion would add up to five tankers per month navigating Fidalgo Bay and the surroundings water of the Salish Sea.
Right now, Skagit County officials are deciding whether to approve a key Shoreline Permit for the project. Environmental advocates are asking the County to withhold issuing the permit until it completes a more thorough review of the project’s impacts, one that more fully considers offsite risks and the compounding dangers of petrochemical developments nearby.
The public has just a few days more to weigh in. You can submit written comments by November 1 using the generic comment form here (be sure to include “Tesoro CPUP Shoreline Permit” in the subject line) or in-person at a hearing on Thursday, November 2 at 9:00 am at the Skagit County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, 1800 Continental Place in Mount Vernon, Washington.
Looking for more resources?
- Re-Sources for Sustainable Communities, a Bellingham-based advocacy organization, has extensive information about the project and the risks of xylene.
- Anacortes’ Evergreen Islands has an excellent analysis of the project’s impacts published in 2016 as comments at an earlier stage of review.
- Skagit County, the lead agency conducting an environmental review of the project, has key background material on the project.
- Sightline has examined the checkered past of Tesoro in a thorough analysis of the firm’s track record, The Dirt on Tesoro.
- Sightline has also written a crash course on the subject, “What Is Xylene, and What Does It Mean for Puget Sound?”
- Sightline has inventoried some of the known risks of xylene production and transport in an article, “How Tesoro’s Petrochem Plans May Threaten Anacortes and the Salish Sea.”
In regards to the Tesoro CPUP Shoreline Permit, please know that I oppose storing, processing and shipping of Xylene in Anacortes. I grew up in Bellingham, visited Anacortes and the San Juans, studied Marine Biology with Dr. Jerry Flora from Western and I now live in Tacoma. The Salish Sea is uniquely beautiful and was home to singularly diverse and abundant life but human abuse is killing it. We must do all we can to preserve the Puget Sound.
No on the expansion! No to dangerous chemical processing! Protect our waters, our health, and our future. Xylene shipping creates yet another spill risk for the Salish Sea, and xylene tanker mishaps have caused tremendous damage in the past, such as the 2007 spill on the Mississippi River. The Tesoro expansion would add up to five tankers per month navigating Fidalgo Bay and the surroundings water of the Salish Sea.
Annie Day McIntyre
I strongly oppose the Xylene Petrochemical project proposed by
Andeavor. Puget Sound, Anacortes, and the rest of the Salish Sea, is at a tripping point. The Salmon, the Orca are threatened, and are in major decline. We should not add any infrastructure, that risks the safety of the water, air, land, or it’s inhabitants in any way.
The people of the San Juan Islands and Anacortes, rely on tourist dollars, these tourists come to see the incredible beauty, and the pristine waters of this area, as well as eat the bounty of incredible food produced on our land. We cannot risk a spill, more ship traffic, and the added dangerous pollution levels that this plant would create for any life form in this area. Please do not allow this to move forward. Sincerely,
RE: Tesoro CPUP Shoreline Permit
Please pay particular attention to the CUMULATIVE IMPACTS of the many fossil fuel import projects (crude oil by pipeline, coal and oil by rail) currently operating along the entire expanse of our coastline from British Columbia to Washington and Oregon coastal regions. Add in the cumulative effects of the many export projects (mainly tanker traffic headed to Asia) also affecting our environment.
Chevron (Standard Oil) and Shell began their refineries in the early 1950s, importing crude oil from Canada via pipeline. In those early days a tanker sailing to or from March’s Point past North Beach, Guemes was a rare sight. Today there are usually four to seven tankers anchored (lurking) in the Samish Anchorage. I took a photo one July day, this year (2017) because there were no tankers in view!! A very rare event these days.
When will the appetites of fossil fuel extractionists be sated? Can our environment survive? Do we need more cheap plastic stuff made in China? How much of it ends up littering Skagit County beaches? When do our “leaders” say enough?
The Salish sea is too important to take the chance, no matter how small, that there will be a leak, or worse.
In the long term, there is NO future for a chemical plant, in time, if we have such, it will be another chemical clean up site, and who pays??? WE DO, some corporation makes millions of dollars and we are left to clean up the mess, that is how it has gone before and I do not see that this will be different
As a long term resident of the San Juan County ( 23 years) and Skagit county (20 years) I am opposed to any further expansion of the Anacortes Andeavor company to manufacture, storage and shipping of Xylene, for these reasons:
It has been noted by scientists nationally and internationally that the Salish Sea is a vital and ecological treasure , and IS one of the largest inland seas on the planet. The 7,000 square miles of marine miles is highly is critical habitat, supports economic diversity for the region , and is located in one of the most precarious geological regions in the USA; the Cascade fault. There is not enough infrastructure to minimize an earthquake at the Tesero/ Andeavor plant and adding another toxic chemical risk to this region does not make any sense in the interest of public safety or economics, or the environment.
The expansion of an industry which produces another chemical that poses health risks to American workers, for a minimal amount of production for foreign export and a maximum of profit for a very few, and has serious environmental impacts is not in the public interest for safety or health.
Oil tanker traffic in the north sound has increased tenfold in recent years. Any community that has had an oil spill will tell you the life of the waters does not fully recover.
It is not in the best interests of our communities of western Washington to accept this Tesoro CPUP Shoreline Permit.
a worker and in the event of a