Oil ports need more review

This morning the state Supreme Court unanimously sided with the Quinault Indian Nation and forced further review of two proposed expanded oil terminals in Grays Harbor. The question was whether the expanded terminals on the harbor would be covered under the Ocean Resources Management Act (ORMA).

You can read the entire ruling here.

Quinault has been battling oil transportation through Grays Harbor for years:

“Tribal and commercial fisheries, tourism and the best razor clams anywhere are among the many ways Grays Harbor, our rivers and coastline set the table for local food, jobs and our economy. There’s nothing more important to our future prosperity and way of life than keeping our waterways healthy, productive, and safe from crude oil,” said Tyson Johnston, Quinault Vice-President.

The expansions are not small. Here is how the court describes one:

Westway plans to expand its existing facility by constructing four aboveground storage tanks for storing crude oil. Each tank will have a capacity of 8.4 million gallons, meaning the entire Westway project will have a capacity of 33.6 million gallons. Westway also plans to expand its rail facility from two short rail spurs to four longer spurs with a total of 76 loading spots. Westway would also add a vapor combustion unit and a structural hose support system to accommodate loading tanker vessels with crude oil. Once complete, Westway’s expanded terminal is estimated to receive 403.2 million gallons of oil per year.

Here is part of the court’s reasoning that ORMA covers the oil terminal expansions:

ORMA is designed to address environmental threats to our coastal waters and specifically addresses the threats posed by increased expansion of the fossil fuel industry along the Pacific Coast. See RCW 43.143.010. The language of the statute indicates that the legislature intended it to… combat current environmental dangers and to preemptively protect the coastline from future environmental risks. Because ORMA addresses broad concerns surrounding the environmental dangers of collecting and transporting oil near our shores, it requires a liberal construction.

This certainly isn’t the last stop for this issue, it just means that lower courts will have to use the high standard set by ORMA when ruling on these oil terminals.