As stated in The Bellingham Herald Feb.23 article, “Skagit oil-by-rail project to get full environmental review,” the Skagit County hearing examiner seems to have handed conservation groups a victory when he ruled that the Puget Sound refinery’s oil-by-rail proposal will be subject to a full environmental impact statement under Washington state’s State Environmental Protection Act. I believe this victory comes at a steep price for our entire community.
The ruling effectively robs local citizens and the community at large of the fair and consistent permitting process adhered to by neighboring counties during the planning of new infrastructure. For some unknown reason the citizens of Skagit County are being held, I believe, to an unusually strict interpretation of the state SEPA law and it’s going to cost them.
The refineries in Whatcom County and Anacortes, which are already processing crude oil that’s arriving safely each day by rail, were not subjected to the same protracted analysis under SEPA. I believe this unnecessary scrutiny — a “victory” in the eyes of some people — puts that community at a competitive disadvantage, and it will be our friends and neighbors who pay the price in lower wages and lost jobs.
I believe the ruling does a disservice to the community and fails to account for the fact that any negative economic impact will far outweigh any future environmental benefits.