The Skagit County Board of Commissioners on Friday denied an appeal of a permit for the Andeavor Anacortes Refinery’s proposed Clean Products Upgrade Project.
The commissioners voted unanimously to deny the appeal filed by six environmental groups, upholding Skagit County Hearing Examiner Wick Dufford’s earlier decision to issue the permit.
The permit is one of several the refinery, which was previously known as Tesoro, needs before it can complete the proposed project.
Because the permit in question is a shoreline substantial use permit, the county commissioners said they were limited to considering only shoreline development and the impacts of that development within 200 feet of the refinery’s wharf off March Point.
During a Feb. 27 hearing for the appeal, representatives and attorneys for the environment groups that filed the appeal spoke about environmental concerns related to the Clean Products Upgrade Project as a whole.
The project involves upgrading and building new equipment at the refinery to achieve three main goals: extract the chemical compound xylene during the refining process for shipment to Asia, reduce sulfur in refined fuel products and reduce emissions from vessels docked at the refinery’s wharf.
The shoreline permit pertains to the third component, for which the refinery would build a marine vapor emissions control system to capture emissions from vessels.
“In adhering to the scope of what this particular permit covers … I think the MVEC (marine vapor emissions control) project is a good project,” Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki said before voting Friday.
The environment groups that appealed the permit said during the Feb. 27 hearing that while they like the idea of reducing emissions at the refinery, their concerns center on vessel traffic – which would increase by 60 ships per year to transport xylene – and greenhouse gas emissions from transporting that product.
They said the project will increase the likelihood of a vessel spill that would harm the endangered southern resident orcas and impact island communities, and that the project will increases emissions that contribute to climate change.
“While for the (Clean Products Upgrade) project the overall impacts do have merits … because the issue is of the shorelines permit we are only legally available to talk about the shorelines area,” Commissioner Ron Wesen said Friday.
Janicki said she shares concerns raised in the appeal, but that the board was limited in this situation to considering only what the permit covers.
“I really do appreciate all the passion that was brought to the hearing and to this topic. There are certainly environmental issues and concerns that we all share,” she said. “But this does not cover that spectrum. It is much more narrow.”
The environment groups said they may next appeal Friday’s decision to the state Shorelines Hearings Board, according to a joint statement the groups issued following the commissioners’ decision.