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Heated debate at hearing for proposed expansion at Anacortes refinery

A proposed project at the Andeavor oil refinery in Anacortes would increase tanker traffic to export xylene to East Asia.
A proposed project at the Andeavor oil refinery in Anacortes would increase tanker traffic to export xylene to East Asia. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A standing-room only crowd at Thursday’s hearing on a proposed upgrade to an Anacortes oil refinery voiced a familiar refrain: It’s about saving jobs. Or saving the environment.

Andeavor, formerly Tesoro Corp., is proposing a $40 million project to upgrade the refinery to meet upcoming federal gasoline emissions regulations, and to produce and ship xylene. A byproduct of the refining process, xylene is used to make plastics and other synthetic products.

The refinery would produce up to 15,000 barrels a day of mixed xylene for export to global markets, primarily in Asia.

Wick Dufford, Skagit County’s hearing examiner, is weighing a shoreline development permit for the project, which sits between Fidalgo Bay to the west and Padilla Bay to the east. The county’s planning department has recommended approving the permit.

At Thursday’s hearing, some pointed to jobs provided by the refinery. Others asked the county to deny to project because of concerns about increased oil tanker traffic and impacts on wildlife and other natural resources.

“The Tesoro and now Andeavor refinery has been a cornerstone of our local economy since it was built ... we’re very fortunate to have a company that continues to invest,” Anacortes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stephanie Hamilton said, according to the Skagit Valley Herald.

Community members and representatives of some environment groups, including the Sierra Club and Puget Sound Keeper Alliance, disagreed, the Herald reported.

“Fidalgo Island is the gateway to the San Juans. Let’s keep it that way,” Conway resident Anne Winkes said. “Let’s not make it an on-ramp for a new petrochemical highway.”

Information about about the project is available at TesoroAnacortesEIS.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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