Anacortes Oil Train Forum: Anacortes City Hall, Wednesday, May 6, 6pm

by Tom Glade Saturday, May 2, 2015 6:59 AM

Ever since oil trains began rolling through the communities of Skagit County and Washington State over two years ago, many of you have raised the red flag.

Anacortes City Councilmembers Ryan Walter and Liz Lovelett* are hosting a public forum on oil transportation in Skagit County this coming Wednesday, May 6th. The forum will have representatives from Shell Oil, Tesoro Oil, BNSF, Skagit County, and Congressman Rick Larsen as panelists.

We are concerned that the panel will provide

*  False assurances that the decades old rail tracks and bridges are safe.

*  False assurances that the emergency response teams are adequately trained and equipped.

*  False assurances that the dangerous, unsafe DOT 111 rail cars are not being used.

This is an issue that impacts all of us. Why aren’t other interested parties invited to present? Come This Wednesday to speak up.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 6 from 6-8 pm

WHERE: Anacortes City Council Chambers, City Hall, 904 6th Street in Anacortes

WHAT: Community Meeting on Oil Transportation.

We hope you can attend this community meeting.

The community needs to hold our local elected officials and the industries that operate in our community accountable to safety, environmental protection, and our well-being.

* Please note, both council members are members of Safe Energy Leadership Alliance, are strong environmental and community advocates, have passed an oil transportation resolution, and recently advocated for the Governor’s request legislation on this issue.

Please Stand Up to Oil by attending this forum.


Rein Attemann

Washington Environmental Council


Skagit County Hearing Examiner Requires Environmental Impact Study for Shell’s Crude-by-Rail Oil Rail

by Tom Glade Monday, February 23, 2015 10:39 PM

February 23, 2015

Evergreen Islands and our partners commend Mr. Wick Dufford, Skagit County’s Hearing Examiner, for having the integrity to require an Environmental Impact Statement for Shell’s Bakken oil rail terminal project – at a time when most state and local officials have averted their eyes..

The onslaught of Bakken oil trains traversing Washington State has cast a specter of disaster across our state – exposing the peoples and environments of not only Skagit County but also a significant portion of our state to the risk of huge oil spills and horrific, uncontrollable fires.

In his decision, Mr. Dufford recognizes that the enormity of the environmental impacts associated with the Bakken oil trains and specifically Shell’s Bakken oil trains exceed the “probable significant, adverse environmental impact” test required for an Environmental Impact Statement.

Media Contacts:

Tom Glade, Evergreen Islands,, (360)588-8057.


Evergreen Islands:
Forest Ethics:
FRIENDS of the San Juans:
Friends of the Earth:
RE Sources for Sustainable Communities:‐
Washington Environmental Council:


Public Hearing: Northwest Clean Air Agency

by Sandra Spargo Saturday, October 11, 2014 1:39 PM

Draft Permit for Potential Emissions of

Bakken Crude Oil Volatile Organic Compounds

Thursday, Oct. 16, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (or to when the last person speaks)

Anacortes Public Library

1220 10th Avenue, Anacortes

Shell proposed rail terminal

Proposed Shell Crude-by-Rail East Gate rail terminal area on March Point, Anacortes

Encompassed by Highway 20, Fidalgo Bay and Padilla Bay

Shell Puget Sound Refinery (PSR) must meet the requirements of over 15 permits to ensure that its proposed crude-by-rail terminal will be built.

The Northwest Clean Air Agency (NWCAA) of Mount Vernon will hold a public hearing on Oct. 16 regarding one of these permits, whose project is described as follows:

Project description:  Shell Puget Sound Refinery (PSR) proposes to construct a crude oil unloading system with the capacity to unload up to 102 railcars per day. Upon the train’s arrival at the Crude-by-Rail East Gate station, PSR would connect hoses to the bottom of each railcar, allowing crude oil to drain into a large collection pipe. PSR would pump crude oil to existing tanks. The collection pipe and railcar overhead vents are designed as a closed vapor control system.  Volatile organic compounds (ozone precursors) could total 0.9 tons a year. Potential sources of VOCs would be leaks from unloading equipment such as pumps, valves, and flanges and leaks from oily wastewater systems. (Courtesy of Protect Skagit.)

Shell Notice of Construction, G. Criteria Air Pollutant2 Emissions, Page 3, demonstrates the technicality of this proposed permit. Therefore, if you would not rather address technicalities, Protect Skagit generously wrote the following talking points for those who wish to speak at the public hearing.  A second option is to speak that you support the testimony already given. A third option is to come and occupy a seat of concern.

Northwest Clean Air Agency draft construction permit for the construction and operation of a terminal for unloading crude oil delivered by rail.

1) Since the Skagit County Planning and Development Services ruling on a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) for environmental harm from this project is under appeal, why not wait to decide on this permit until after that appeal? The appeal could result in a ruling that an Environmental Impact Statement is needed for this project so why rule on this permit in advance of the MDNS hearing? NWCAA should not issue an approval for construction until the appeal has been resolved.

2) The Project summary language for the permit should specifically reference just Bakken crude oil from North Dakota, and Niobrara crude oil primarily from Colorado and Wyoming. The current language is too vague, saying the unloading facility is for receiving light crude oil which could include diluted bitumen from Canadian tar sands.

3) An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed since Bakken and Niobrara crude oil is chemically and physically different from crude oils currently being refined. There may be increases or changes in emissions, fouling of equipment, and upsets in the refining process that are currently unknown. It is too soon to tell if these problems are occurring at other refineries like Tesoro that already bring in Bakken. Therefore, an EIS must be conducted on this and all other potential cumulative impacts from the transport and refining of Bakken and Niobrara crude at the Shell refinery.

4) Governor Insleeʼs recent draft oil transportation study specifically recommends on page 67: “Modify definition of ʻfacilityʼ to include moving trains carrying oil” for purposes of oil spill prevention and response. Accordingly, the NWCAA should study rail diesel particulates and the possible release of toxic emissions from crude oil tank cars from trains traveling to and from the Shell refinery, and while idling there. The results of this study should be included in a full EIS prior to either the approval or denial of this permit to determine the full health impacts from air emissions resulting from the proposed project. The study results should also be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency, WA State Dept. of Ecology, and the Governor’s office to determine whether changes to the regulations of air emissions from crude oil transport are needed.

5) The state threshold for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of 10,000 metric tons per year is exceeded by the Shell project, according to Earthjustice and others who have filed the appeal on the MDNS. The NWCAA has a responsibility to determine all GHG emissions and not issue the permit as currently drafted for construction of this facility if the GHG emissions are shown in the appeal to exceed the state threshold for GHG emissions.


State public hearing/rail & marine oil transport-save the date!

by Sandra Spargo Sunday, September 28, 2014 3:29 PM



According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, each unit train of 100 oil tank cars carries 2,900,000 gallons of crude oil.  Crude oil deliveries by rail do not pay into Washington State’s oil spill response fund—unlike crude oil deliveries by waterborne vessel or barge.

Washington State, a national leader in green energy, is on the verge of also becoming a major global crossroads of fossil fuel, setting up a collision of values and economics. Throughout Western Washington, waterways and railways are becoming fossil fuel corridors.

Governor Jay Inslee directed the Dept. of Ecology to draft the 2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study. Ecology will release the draft on Oct. 1.

  • The purpose of the Study is to assess public health and safety, as well as environmental impacts associated with oil transport.
  • The Study must provide data and analysis of statewide risks, gaps and options for increasing public safety and improving spill prevention and response readiness.
  • The Study’s findings will direct legislative, executive and state agency actions.



Local and State Groups File Appeal on Shell Oil Transport Decision

by Tom Glade Friday, September 12, 2014 7:49 PM

Concerned citizens appeal Skagit County decision to move forward without full environmental review.

Mount Vernon, WA—Six state and local conservation groups, including RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, FRIENDS of the San Juans, ForestEthics, Washington Environmental Council, Friends of the Earth, and Evergreen Islands, represented by Earthjustice, filed an appeal yesterday of Skagit County’s decision to allow a proposed Shell Puget Sound Refinery crude-by-rail facility to move forward without requiring a full and transparent environmental review.

Shell has proposed a facility that would receive one unit train of crude oil per day, with each unit train consisting of four locomotives and approximately 102 crude oil tank cars.  Nearby refineries have built similar facilities; however, those refineries began their projects before an ongoing chain of oil train explosions revealed the extreme volatility of the Bakken crude.  The July 6, 2013 oil train explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, one of the first disasters in the chain, killed 47 people and destroyed roughly half of the Lac-Megantic’s downtown.

“Before we allow more oil trains, we better make sure they pose no threat to our communities,” said Tom Glade with Evergreen Islands.  “Shell’s plans, especially coming after all the derailments and accidents that we’ve already seen, must undergo a thorough and public analysis to ensure our safety.”

In Skagit County, the oil trains pass right through the downtowns of Burlington, Conway, and Mount Vernon.  The oil trains also cross the old Burlington/Mount Vernon bridge spanning the Skagit River immediately above the Anacortes Water Treatment Plant and the old swing bridge spanning the Swinomish Channel directly adjacent to the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Extensive crude-by-rail oil transport systems have increased dramatically in recent years.   In 2008, only 9,500 tank cars transported crude nationally, as compared to over 400,000 tank cars in 2013, an increase of over 4000%.

These conservation groups are filing this appeal because of significant risks and impacts to people, water, and wildlife, and are demanding a full environmental review. They are also demanding that Shell be prevented from using any rail facility as a way to ship crude over marine waters.

“Without prohibitions on the export of crude oil from the Shell Refinery,” said Fred Felleman, Northwest consultant for Friends of the Earth “Increased train traffic will also result in increased tanker traffic and oil spills. This risk to Puget Sound is simply too great.”


Evergreen Islands:
Forest Ethics:
FRIENDS of the San Juans:
Friends of the Earth:
Re Sources for Sustainable Community:
Washington Environmental Council:


Shell Oil Products Proposed Crude by Rail Unloading Facility Shoreline Variance/ Substantial Development Permit (File #13-0468)

by Tom Glade Tuesday, March 25, 2014 8:18 PM


February 15, 2014

To: Leah Forbes, AICP

Senior Planner, Skagit County Planning & Development Services

cc: Evergreen Islands Board of Trustees

Re: Shell Oil Products Proposed Crude by Rail Unloading Facility

Shoreline Variance/ Substantial Development Permit (File #13-0468)

Dear Ms. Forbes:

On the behalf of Evergreen Islands, I am submitting this comment letter regarding the permitting of Shell Oil Products Proposed Crude by Rail Unloading Facility.

In large part, this letter is a pictorial essay about our concerns that the proposed Shell Oil Products railroad terminal, which will facilitate refining crude oil delivered in tank cars, will likely have a probable significant adverse environmental impacts on the Skagit County’s irreplaceable and invaluable environment. A summary of our salient points are included in a summary at the end of our letter.

While the Shell proposal has the potential for global environmental impacts, this brief letter focuses on the probable significant adverse environmental impacts involving our (Skagit County’s) local environment. This letter addresses the potential adverse impacts on the following elements of our environment (see Figure 1):

· Padilla Bay

· The March Point Heronry

· The City of Burlington




Evergreen Islands Appeals Mount Erie Clear-Cutting

by Tom Glade Saturday, August 24, 2013 8:16 AM

Evergreen Islands has appealed Skagit County’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) decision on the environmental impacts of clear-cutting 40 acres of forest on the south face of Mount Erie.  The decision, a Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS), allows the ‘harvesting’ of approximately 900,000 board feet of timber.

Evergreen Islands and lots of other people wrote to the County and expressed our concerns about the clear-cutting.  In the our letter included below, Evergreen Islands asked  Skagit County to change their decision to a Determination of Significance, which would have required an Environmental Impact Statement, but to no avail.

The appeal will be heard before the Skagit County Hearing Examiner at a date yet to be scheduled.  Evergreen Islands has retained an attorney to present the reasons why the slopes of Mount Erie should not be clear-cut.  Our effort to thwart the clear-cutting will be expensive (e.g. the fee for the Hearing Examiner appeal was $1,000).

You can financially help with this appeal by making a tax-deductible donation to Evergreen Islands.



Trolls on the loose

by Judy Booth Thursday, July 11, 2013 11:10 PM

A Guest Opinion By Judy Booth
La Conner Weekly News, July 11, 2013

What do patent hoarders, Obama, Tethys and the Skagit River have in common?

Patent hoarders troll universities and research centers around the world looking for patents to buy. Then they look for products using that technology and demand a licensing fee or threaten court action.

They set up “shell” companies who take innovators to court, hiding the name of the parent company.  Inventors, scientists and universities can face years of litigation, thereby draining our economy and crushing creativity.  Most just give up and pay out of court.

They “don’t actually produce anything themselves,” but work “to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them,” President Obama said.

Once a patent troller has acquired a patent, they look for innovators who are developing the same or similar idea and demand a licensing fee or threaten to take them to court.  With pockets deep enough to hold up a would-be inventor for years, settlements are usually made out of court. The shell company sometimes sues as many as a hundred different innovators over the same idea.

The fact that a patent troller can hold a piece of paper, instead of developing that idea is what is so galling.  They are not interested in making products or developing ideas, but in buying and selling paper for their own profit and suing other companies over supposed patent infringement.   Like a troll hiding under a bridge, they pop up unexpectedly and make unreasonable demands, laughing all the way to bank with no concern for innovation or the economy.

Possibly the largest patent troller in the world is Intellectual Ventures of Bellevue, with upwards of 58,000 patents and over 1,200 shell companies world-wide, according to the
Stanford Technology Law Review.

Considering CEO Nathan Myhrvold of Intellectual Ventures gave $50,000 to Obama’s inauguration dinner, it should be interesting to see how he counsels the President on legislation of patent trolls aimed at transparency.

So if you have an idea on how to improve the Internet, back up files, store information or come up with a better idea on how to automate bottling plants, be careful, trolls are on the loose.

Intellectual Venture’s Vice President is
Steve Winter.  He is also the CEO of Tethys who has a saleable piece of paper with the City of Anacortes to build one of the largest beverage bottling plants in the U.S. on Reservation Road and Highway 20.




by Ross Barnes Monday, July 1, 2013 5:05 AM

June 28, 2013


From:  Ross O. Barnes

13695 Harbor Lane

Anacortes, WA 98221

(360) 293-7023


To:  John Cooper

Skagit County P&DS

1800 Continental Place

Mount Vernon, WA 98273




My comments are on behalf of myself and Evergreen Islands. 


On April 12, 2013, I submitted comments to you on PL13-0102.  These comments identified a designated Wildlife Habitat Conservation Area (HCA) of local importance--the Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL)-as immediately north of the subject Harkness property and subject to the applicable regulations of the Skagit County Critical Areas Ordinance under SCC 14.24.520 (Exhibit A).  My April 12 letter specifically identified what would be required to meet the requirements of SCC 14.24.520. 


Both your draft MDNS and the May 24, 2013, Stratum Group/Edison Engineering report on which the MDNS is based, fail to recognize the ACFL as a protected HCA and fail to provide the applicable evaluations, recommendations and mitigation required by Skagit County code. 


In the absence of the required evaluations and mitigation plan, SCC 14.24.520 requires that any site disturbances remain at least 200’ away from the HCA-ACFL boundary on the north property line of the Harkness property.  We request that you add an additional condition to the MDNS that specifies this minimum 200’ setback from the ACFL as a protected critical area.  Without this additional condition, your proposed MDNS violates Skagit County code. 




The ACFL is the centerpiece of Anacortes’ non-marine HCA’s and an essential element of  wildlife habitat protection in Anacortes.  All of the complex habitat of the ACFL is a protected critical area in its entirety and for all wildlife species, not just listed species.  The Stratum Group/Edison Engineering report evaluated only listed species and ignored the whole ACFL as an HCA.  My April 12 letter listed just some of the potential impacts of the Harkness projects on the ACFL habitats. 


Evaluation of submitted site plans show that the 200’ setback from the ACFL HCA, that is required in the absence of  HCA specific evaluations and habitat management/mitigation plans, falls within the designated falcon nest buffer or is above the base of the rock cliff where logging is not proposed (Exhibit B).  Thus, this 200’ setback that is required under Skagit County code will impose no additional restrictions on the logging and development activities proposed for the Harkness property, but will bring the MDNS into compliance with Skagit County code. 


Please notify me immediately of your final MDNS decision so we have adequate time for appeal if that is necessary.  My email address is 


Ross O. Barnes, Ph.D.

Earth Science



Attachments:  Exhibits A and B


Despite city’s assurances, shortages loom in the future

by Ross Barnes Wednesday, April 24, 2013 9:41 PM

Reader Commentary, Anacortes American, Wednesday, April 24, 2012


The City of Anacortes’ 55 million gallons per day of continuous and 11 million gallons per day of interruptible Skagit River water rights are recognized as a principal water supply resource in Skagit County that will be increasingly called on to supply the future needs and growth of Skagit County residents and businesses.

With commendable foresight, the city took advantage of temporary inexpensive funding opportunities to rebuild its water treatment plant to technological state-of-the-art and to fully exploit the hydraulic capacity of the existing water intake structure on the Skagit River. The plant is now ready to serve the needs of water customers for the next 40 years or so.

However, Anacortes officials torpedo and submerge this “good” story with other actions and statements that demonstrate they have neither the sense of responsibility nor basic intellectual honesty to be trusted as stewards of an essential public water resource.

City Council member Cynthia Richardson’s commentary on local water issues in the March 6 American is typical of the self-serving fairy story on water promulgated by City Hall that misdirects and misinforms the public on the reality of future supply and demand issues in the Anacortes water supply system.

Ms. Richardson spins an anecdotal tale of Skagit River hydrology that, although factually correct in the narrow sense, is irrelevant to the technical and legal constraints on future water supply in Skagit County.
I can discuss here only a small sample of Anacortes’ irresponsible actions and misstatements on Skagit County water supply issues.

Skagit County has projected water supply needs and preliminary water system planning to the year 2050. This Skagit County Coordinated Water System Plan (CWSP) is part of the Anacortes Comprehensive Plan, and Anacortes is legally obliged to operate its water supply system in conformity with the long-range planning horizon and policies of the CWSP.

The current CWSP was published in 1999, which predates the severe future water supply constraints introduced by the infamous Skagit Basin In-stream Flow Rule that has spawned endless controversy and litigation between “water factions” in Skagit County. Thus, the water supply projections of the CWSP must be modified by subsequent legal developments such as the In-stream Flow Rule, which is a Washington state administrative regulation, and the state Municipal Water Law of 2003.

The distribution of future population growth in Skagit County assumed by the CWSP is not supported by current comprehensive planning in Skagit County, so water demand projections are best evaluated by combining the two principal municipal water system service areas — Anacortes and Skagit PUD — to avoid speculation on where long-term urban growth will occur in the county (this is one reason for having coordinated countywide water supply planning).

Indeed, there are multiple interties between the Anacortes and PUD water systems, and PUD is a major wholesale customer of the Anacortes water system. Also, the boundary between the two water system service areas may change in the future to achieve better balance between water supply and demand.

The In-stream Flow Rule does not contemplate increasing the existing continuous Skagit Basin water rights of the Anacortes and PUD water systems to meet future demand. This fundamental restriction on future water supply was not considered by the earlier CWSP.

To quantify the magnitude of Anacortes’ irresponsible actions and misstatements, I need to discuss a few actual numbers from the CWSP and other water planning documents.

For the year 2050, the CWSP projects a potential peak water demand in the combined Anacortes/PUD service areas of 117.8 MGD against combined Anacortes/PUD continuous Skagit Basin water supply rights of 82.5 MGD — a supply deficit of 35.3 MGD, that must be met, if at all, from raw water storage reservoirs.

PUD has a raw water storage reservoir that will allow it to fully utilize its 8.3 MGD of interruptible water rights that cannot be drawn during low-flow conditions in the water source areas that coincide with the peak demand period of late summer and early fall. The 8.3 MGD is typically not available for about one-fourth of the year, which reduces the average yearly interruptible draw to 6.3 MGD and the peak demand deficit to 29 MGD versus averaged water rights.

Anacortes has no significant raw water storage capacity, so the future utility of its 11 MGD of interruptible water to meet dry season peak demand is unknown. Against this serious peak demand deficit, the CWSP projects and allocates a total of 21 MGD of industrial water use for the whole of Skagit County to the year 2050 — 16 MGD to Anacortes and 5 MGD to PUD.

But as stated above, all of this water may not actually be available, or may have to be “taken” from other users during periods of peak demand. In spite of the county water supply deficits projected in the Anacortes Comprehensive Plan, Anacortes signed a contract with Tethys Enterprises to supply up to 5.5 MGD of new industrial water out to 2050. Combined with the existing 12.9 MGD of water used by Shell and Tesoro refineries, the Tethys contract alone brings the large industrial water use in the Anacortes system to 18.4 MGD or 2.4 MGD greater than Anacortes’ projected industrial allocation in the CWSP.

The Tethys contract also uses up all of the 1 MGD of new industrial water use allocated to the rest of Skagit County through the PUD, plus another 1.4 MGD.

In summary, Anacortes (1) ignores the long-range water demand/supply forecasts of its own comprehensive water planning documents that project serious potential water supply deficits by 2050 in Skagit County, (2) contracts to give all of the projected new industrial water supply for all of Skagit County, plus more, to one new industrial customer, and (3) requires that all of that overallocated water be delivered within Anacortes city limits.

And then Anacortes complains that increasing numbers of Skagit County residents and their government representatives are antagonistic to Anacortes’ shortsighted actions and continuous misstatements with respect to county water supply issues that will affect everyone and every business and community in Skagit County.

A more detailed discussion of the quantitative water supply and demand projections for Skagit County, including graphical presentations, can be found at under the title City of Anacortes Petition to Modify UGA Boundary, posted January 29, 2013.

Editor’s note: After receiving Mr. Barnes’ letter, the American asked Public Works Director Fred Buckenmeyer for a city perspective on future water supplies



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