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Setback for Shell’s proposed rail yard in Anacortes

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Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 16.04.38Setback for Shell’s proposed rail yard in Anacortes

By Seattle Times Staff: 21 May 2015

A Skagit County Superior Court judge Thursday dismissed a Shell Oil lawsuit that challenged an environmental-impact study of a proposed rail yard at the company’s Anacortes refinery.

The ruling is another setback for Shell’s efforts to build the rail yard and spur line to handle oil trains bringing in Bakken crude from North Dakota fields.

In February, a Skagit County hearings examiner ruled that Skagit County should conduct a full-blown environmental study, rather than a shorter review. That decision was a victory for environmental groups that have challenged the facility, and called for a study of the potential effects of a major oil-train disaster as well as an examination of emergency resources for responding to a disaster.

Shell’s lawsuit, filed in Skagit County Superior Court, challenged the examiner’s ruling. But Judge Michael Rickert dismissed it Thursday.

Leah Forbes, a Skagit County planning official, said the study is expected to take at least a year to complete.

“The hope is a year. But it’s still early in the process, and we haven’t developed a timeline,” Forbes said.

Jan Hasselman, of Earthjustice, said he hopes the study now moves forward.

“This community deserves an honest conversation about this project and the court has said we are entitled to one,” Hasselman said.

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RELATED REUTERS ARTICLE BY KRISTEN HAYS

21 May 2015

Washington state judge denies Shell appeal on rail project review

A judge on Thursday denied Royal Dutch Shell’s appeal of a ruling that a proposed oil-by-rail project at its Washington state refinery must undergo a full environmental review, just two weeks after a crude train derailment caused a fire in North Dakota.

Shell had appealed a February ruling from a Skagit County Office of Land Use Hearings examiner that the plan to move 70,000 barrels per day of inland crude to its 145,000 bpd Puget Sound refinery in Anacortes must be comprehensively reviewed.

In 2014, the county said the project did not need that much scrutiny to get a permit, prompting challenges from several environmental organizations.

On Thursday, a Skagit County Superior Court judge denied Shell’s appeal, according to court officials.

The denial came two weeks after an eastbound crude train derailed in North Dakota, the latest in a spate of fiery mishaps since 2013 that have stoked fears about moving oil by rail.

Shell had sought to limit the review’s scope to exclude railroad issues overseen solely by federal regulators, but said it remains committed to working with the county and other agencies to finish the permitting process.

Shell’s refining competitors in Washington have been bringing in U.S. crudes by rail since 2012 to displace more expensive imports and declining Alaskan oil output. Shell was the last to seek oil-by-rail permits in late 2013, but by then opponents had taken notice of train crashes and safety concerns.

The rail issue is not Shell’s only concern in the state. The company also faces opponents to its plan to use the port city of Seattle to ready rigs before they travel to the Chukchi Sea off the north coast of Alaska.

(Reporting By Kristen Hays. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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