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Skagit County approves another permit to expand Anacortes refinery

A proposed project at Tesoro oil refinery in Anacortes would add up to five additional vessels to export xylene to East Asia.
A proposed project at Tesoro oil refinery in Anacortes would add up to five additional vessels to export xylene to East Asia. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Skagit County Hearing Examiner Wick Dufford has approved a permit for a proposed upgrade at an Anacortes oil refinery.

The decision comes five weeks after the Nov. 2 public hearing on the shoreline substantial development permit, during which dozens raised environmental and safety concerns about the proposed project, which sits between Fidalgo Bay to the west and Padilla Bay to the east.

The Andeavor Anacortes refinery is the former Tesoro refinery at March Point near Anacortes.

The refinery has been planning the Clean Products Upgrade Project for several years. It would include upgrading existing equipment and building new equipment to reduce sulfur in its fuel products and enable the extraction, storage and shipment of xylene.

Xylene is a chemical component of gasoline. It can be used in the manufacturing of a variety of plastics and other synthetic materials. Andeavor plans to produce 15,000 barrels of xylene per day to ship to Asia.

The extraction of xylene and the five additional vessels per year that would dock at the refinery to collect it were central to many concerns raised at the Nov. 2 permit hearing.

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

Dufford said in his decision that the evidence he received showed no increase in overall vessel traffic in the area, no increase in the likelihood of a spill and no increase in risks associated with a xylene spill compared to a gasoline spill.

“The examiner is not persuaded that the shoreline project under consideration, as conditioned, will have proximate negative environmental impacts that warrant denial of the application,” his decision states.

The county shoreline permit is one of 18 needed for the project.

It is the third to be approved, following state Department of Ecology and Northwest Clean Air Agency permits that were approved in July.

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