Quinault Indian Nation hosts crude oil protest rally

When tribes stand together is when we are strongest

 

Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp, along with many tribal members and Grays Harbor community member rally in protest of crude oil in their county. Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Grays Harbor County is the vacation destination for Washingtonians who are looking for a relaxing affordable getaway. Grays Harbor is the home to popular beach towns like Ocean Shores, Seabrook, and Westport. Hikers and nature lovers who visit the Hoh Rainforest and Lake Quinault frequently admire the northern borders of the county because it shares the Olympic Peninsula with Jefferson and Clallam Counties. This county with breathtaking views almost everywhere you look is in danger of jeopardizing its greatest tourist attraction: it’s natural resources.

Westway Terminal is seeking to build and operate oil terminals in Grays Harbor. The company wants to bring in large amounts of oil via train, store it on the shoreline, and ship it out of the harbor in tanker vessels. Westway is the third company attempting to bring crude oil business into the Grays Harbor community in recent years. Imperium Terminal Services and Grays Harbor Rail Terminal have both attempted and failed largely due to the communities’ opposition. Westway argues that the company will create thousands of job opportunities in a community that is economically struggling, and that Washington State has one of the best oil spill prevention and response teams in the country, so if a spill were to ever occur, the damage would be significantly less than other states.

 

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

 

Grays Harbor recognizes the point the company is trying to make and although some citizens find the possibility of an economic boost appealing, the majority of Grays Harbor feel the risk is greater than the reward. The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) is the most prominent among the many active voices in the community regarding this issue.

QIN hosted a march and rally in the city of Hoquiam on Friday July 8, protesting crude oil in Grays Harbor County. Hundreds of tribal and community members united in an effort to save the county from Westway’s purposed oil terminals. The rally began when traditional canoes docked at the Hoquiam River. Once everybody was ashore the protesters, with banners raised high, marched onto Hoquiam City Hall.

 

Quinautl_oil-1

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

 

“Our ancestors gave up so much when signing the treaties. They worked to ensure that our generation, and we are the seventh generation since the Quinault Nation signed our treaty in the 1800’s, would be secured by treaty rights. This generation is standing up for our treaty rights to ensure that our natural resources are preserved for the next seven generations to come,” stated QIN President, Fawn Sharp, as the large crowd began to chant “No crude oil!”

 

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

 

President Sharp commissioned an economic study in regards to what would happen to the community if the county approves the oil terminals. The study found that in the case of an oil spill, approximately 10,000 jobs would be threatened including 700 tribal fisherman, 400 non-tribal fisherman, and over 4,000 tourism based jobs. According to the study, more jobs would be lost in the community in the event of a spill than the jobs that would be created by approving Westway’s move to the harbor. Not to mention the damage a spill would cause the environment.

Sharp stated, “We are at a critical place in Grays Harbor. A decision is going to be made soon. The future of this harbor is going to go in one direction or the other. We need it to go in the direction of no crude oil forever!”

Several community leaders gave testimonies opposing Westway at Hoquiam City Hall that afternoon. Tribal leaders from Lummi, Neah Bay, and Quileute were in attendance to show support for Quinault. With the majority of the community on the same page, the purposed oil terminal seems to facing a losing battle. The QIN’s effort to preserve its natural resources for it’s future tribal members is a battle that the Nation is always prepared for. The protection of treaty rights is a fight that all tribes throughout Native America are familiar with, and when tribes stand together is when we are strongest. No crude oil!

 

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

 

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The Clean Energy Governor And The Columbia River Oil Refinery

An aerial view of the Columbia River.AMELIA TEMPLETON

An aerial view of the Columbia River.
AMELIA TEMPLETON

 

By CONRAD WILSON & TONY SCHICK, KUOW.org

 

A new oil refinery is the last thing you might expect Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration to be courting. After all, Inslee has developed a national reputation as a champion of curbing the use of fossil fuels.

And yet, Inslee’s administration has worked for months to facilitate such a project along the Columbia River. A Texas-based energy company wants to site a combined crude oil and biofuel refinery in Longview, Washington. The company’s goal is to capitalize on low carbon fuel standards championed by West Coast political leaders, including Inslee.

The refinery is a project Inslee could have the final say in approving.

Inslee is a politician on a tightrope: He’s cultivating the reputation of a national leader on climate change policy. And he’s also the head of a government that is working with businessmen whose project calls for three trainloads of North Dakota crude oil to be hauled into his state each week by way of the Columbia River Gorge.

Riverside Energy’s plans for the 45,000 barrels-per-day refinery first surfaced publicly in April.

Since then, Inslee has said publicly that he knows next to nothing about the project.

“Have not heard much about it other than what you have reported in the media,” Inslee told reporters when asked about it at a May 28 news conference.

Emails obtained through a public records request by OPB and EarthFix tell a different story when it comes to Inslee’s administration. They document how Inslee’s cabinet and staff have been in discussions with Riverside Energy CEO Lou Soumas for nearly a year.

Inslee’s advisers have scheduled meetings with Soumas, asked him to give presentations to staff in various state agencies and invited him to comment on potential clean fuels legislation. In an email to Soumas last summer, an Inslee staffer offered to take action to support the advanced fuels industry.

In February, Soumas wrote to the Port of Longview that the Governor’s office had asked for updates on the project and when it could be announced, according to an email obtained by Columbia Riverkeeper and shared with news organizations.

“They are anxious to tie us in with their just issued draft Clean Fuels Standard process and other activities important to the (state’s) energy and commerce plans,” Soumas wrote. “I’m meeting with several of Inslee’s direct reports on Wednesday in Olympia and they hope for a positive update on concrete progress on the project.”

A week later, Brian Bonlender, the state’s director of commerce, and Matt Steurwalt, Inslee’s executive director of policy, held a meeting with Soumas in Steurwalt’s office, documents show.

Hours after the meeting, Bonlender connected Soumas with staff at the nonprofit Climate Solutions and a state lawmaker’s office.

When asked about the emails during an appearance on The Seattle Channel earlier this week, Inslee said he expects his staff to have such discussions.

“So I think I’d probably categorize these as: we’re trying to figure out what they have in mind,” Inslee said. “This does not presage any agreement whatsoever or opposition whatsoever because you have to know what you’re doing.”

Environmental groups, including the Columbia Riverkeeper and the Seattle-based think tank Sightline Institute, say such discussions should be happening in public view to ensure an honest process.

“It’s very concerning, it’s very worrisome that this kind of communication, this kind of lobbying would be happening with the governor’s office outside the view of the public, on an issue of this magnitude,” Sightline Policy Director Eric de Place said. “We’re talking about a very environmentally risky project in a key part of the region.”

Energy projects on the scale of Riverside’s proposal must undergo a review by the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council. It’s designed to assess whether projects comply with state statute.

Jim Luce, an attorney who chaired the council between 2001 and 2011, said he always cautioned the governor not to comment on proposed projects.

“When I was EFSEC chair, working with the governor’s staff, I encouraged — in fact, the staff encouraged — the governor to say nothing regarding a potential application because the public might conclude that there had been a predetermination or a predisposition toward a specific outcome on a project, which the governor would then have to finally decide,” Luce said.

But, he said, staff in the governor’s administration must toe a fine line. They advise on and promote the governor’s energy policies, yet the governor ultimately must make an independent decision on projects that might benefit those policies.

The refinery outlined in Soumas’ pitches to the Port of Longview and state officials aligns with Inslee’s push for cleaner fuels. With California, Oregon and British Columbia having passed low carbon fuels regulations, Soumas has said he sees Washington’s adoption of those rules as a matter of time.

Soumas has pitched his project to economic leaders in Longview as “the U.S. largest advanced renewable fuels facility” having “the lowest carbon footprint of any U.S. refinery” and capable of meeting the state’s proposed low carbon fuel standards.

Two thirds of the facility’s production would handle crude oil shipped by train from the Bakken shale of North Dakota. The other third would handle used cooking, seed and vegetable oils.

The refinery would rely on new technologies to create a mix of low carbon jet fuel, gasoline and other petroleum products for use in Portland and Southwest Washington.

Soumas has also estimated the refinery would generate 400 construction jobs and $8 million in tax revenue.

Inslee’s office told the Longview Daily News it sees opportunity in the project.

Keith Phillips, Inslee’s special assistant on climate and energy, said Riverside’s proposal is intriguing.

“The idea that they’re bringing biofuels and green jet fuels and cleaner gasoline — that’s all intriguing, and we’re very interested in it,” Phillips said. “But we haven’t made any explicit link to the clean fuels standards in part because we are working respectfully with the Legislature on ‘can we reach agreement on how to move forward.’”

Phillips said he and other staff have intentionally limited Inslee’s involvement in such discussions.

“We have been very careful with him and he has insisted on that,” he said. “He knows there have been clean refineries proposed. But has not met with the proponents, and has not been briefed by staff on the details. He’s waiting to see whether he has to perform a former legal role on the project.

de Place of the Sightline Institute said the track record of Northwest biofuel ventures is “one of failure.”

Two projects initially built as biofuel refineries in the Pacific Northwest now handle fossil fuels. Facilities in Clatskanie, Oregon, and in Hoquiam, Washington, failed as biofuel projects and now handle crude oil.

“The prospects of adding a third such site in the same region strikes me as one that’s really just a stalking horse for the conventional oil industry,” de Place said. “And as such I don’t really see why the governor’s office would be participating in the way they are alleged to be participating.”

KUOW/EarthFix reporter Ashley Ahearn and Northwest News Network reporter Austin Jenkins contributed to this report.

First Refinery Proposed For Columbia River, Records Show

by Conrad Wilson and Tony Schick,  OPB

 

An energy company is seeking a partnership with the Port of Longview to create a crude oil refinery on the Columbia River, according to public records obtained and released by Columbia Riverkeeper.

An agreement between Riverside Energy, Inc. and the port could initiate the development of the first refinery on the Columbia River and the first on the West Coast in 25 years. The refinery would have a capacity of 30,000 barrels per day and produce a mix of diesel, gasoline and jet fuel all primarily for regional use, according to the documents.

The oil would travel to the refinery by rail from the Bakken fields of North Dakota, creating an estimated traffic of 10 trains per month. The refined products would then travel by water.

Several trains carrying crude oil have derailed and exploded in recent years.

“This is shocking new information. Refineries are extremely polluting. Highly toxic air pollution,” Columbia Riverkeeper Executive Director Brett VandenHeuvel said. “And to combine a refinery with explosive oil trains — it’s the worst of both worlds.”

A presentation from Riverside Refining estimates the project would create more than 400 construction jobs and 150 permanent positions, with an average annual wage of $75,000. The refinery would use “state-of-the-art processing technology” and “will have a lower carbon footprint than existing West Coast refineries,” according to the documents.

The Port of Longview indicated it would make a public statement later Wednesday.

This story will be updated.

Quinault Speak Out Against Oil Trains as Rail Cars Smolder in West Virginia

Chief Petty Officer Angie Vallier/U.S. Coast Guard photo via Popular ScienceThe derailed train cars in West Virginia, still smoldering a day later.

Chief Petty Officer Angie Vallier/U.S. Coast Guard photo via Popular Science
The derailed train cars in West Virginia, still smoldering a day later.

 

As two dozen charred freight-train tankers continued smoldering in West Virginia on Thursday, the Quinault Indian Nation grabbed the opportunity to once again deride the transport of crude oil by rail because of safety and environmental considerations.

RELATED: Video: Raw Footage of Exploding Oil Train in West Virginia Shows Dangers of Rail Transport

“Even as we face very severe, and growing, challenges from fossil fuel-induced climate change, oil production has doubled in this country over the past five years,” Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp said in a statement on February 17, a day after the 109-car train carrying three million gallons of extra-volatile Bakken crude derailed. “And it is getting spilled, in massive amounts, in many places. From 1975 to 2012, there was an average of 800,000 gallons of oil spilled from trains onto the lands and into the waters of this country each year. Last year alone that number skyrocketed to 1.15 million gallons.”

Indeed, at least one of the cars fell and discharged its contents into a tributary of the Kanawha River, and two towns had to be evacuated. Moreover, the train was on the same route that saw the derailment of three tanker cars into the James River in Lynchburg, Virginia, last year, the Associated Pressreported. Speed was not a factor, according to AP.

RELATED: Lynchburg Oil Train Explosion Refuels Rail-Terminal Opposition in Northwest

Oil terminals are proposed in Grays Harbor near Quinault territory, and Sharp has been outspoken against those projects. At least 130,000 barrels of crude oil would move through the Westway and Imperium oil terminals daily from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, the Quinault statement said. Another 45,000 barrels would be accommodated at a terminal proposed in Hoquiam as well, the tribe said.

“People need to realize that these trains are unsafe, at any speed, regardless of the expertise of the crew and despite the efficiency of their communication with towns and cities through which they travel, the general provisions of related bills in the legislature and congress,” Sharp said. “The country’s infrastructure, such as its rails and bridges, are not strong enough or in good enough repair to handle the massive weight and pounding these trains deliver.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/02/20/quinault-speak-out-against-oil-trains-rail-cars-smolder-west-virginia-159305

Tribal leaders, Commissioner warn of oil train dangers

Washington’s people and environment potentially at risk

Press Release: Washington State Department of Natural Resources

OLYMPIA – Increased oil train traffic on Washington’s aging rail system puts the state’s people and ecosystems at risk, according to an opinion piece by ten tribal leaders and the Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, published today in the Seattle Times.

“Crude By Rail: Too Much, Too Soon” calls for federal regulators to improve safety protocols and equipment standards on Washington rail lines to deal with a forty-fold increase in oil train traffic since 2008. Trains carrying crude oil are highly combustible and, if derailed, present serious threats to public safety and environmental health.

Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Nation; Jim Boyd, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; Brian “Spee~Pots” Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community; William B. Iyall, chairman of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe; Maria Lopez, chairwoman of the Hoh Indian Tribe; David Lopeman, chairman of the Squaxin Island Tribe; Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation; Charles Woodruff, chairman of the Quileute Tribe; Herman Williams Sr., chairman of the Tulalip Tribes; and Gary Burke, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation joined Commissioner Goldmark in urging policymakers to address critical issues around the increase of oil train traffic through the state.

“The Northwest has suffered from a pollution-based economy,” said Cladoosby in a statement. “We are the first peoples of this great region, and it is our responsibility to ensure that our ancestral fishing, hunting and gathering grounds are not reduced to a glorified highway for industry. Our great teacher, Billy Frank, Jr., taught us that we are the voices of the Salish Sea and salmon, and we must speak to protect them. If we cannot restore the health of the region from past and present pollution, how can we possibly think we can restore and pay for the impact of this new and unknown resource?

“We are invested in a healthy economy, but not an economy that will destroy our way of life. We will not profit from this new industry, but rather, we as citizens of the Northwest will pay, one way or another, for the mess it will leave behind in our backyard. We will stand with Commissioner Goldmark and our fellow citizens and do what we need so those who call this great state home will live a healthy, safe and prosperous life,” said Cladoosby.

“Good public policy demands that we make informed decisions using information based on the best science and perspective that must include cultural values and traditional knowledge,” said Quinault President Fawn Sharp. According to her statement, the Quinault Tribe is leading a movement against three oil terminals in Grays Harbor and most recently joined more than 700 Washington state citizens to testify at an October hearing held by the Department of Ecology.

“The Quinault are national leaders of long-standing in natural resources protection and strive to protect the oceans and waterways across the Northwest,” said Sharp.

For Tulalip Chairman Herman Williams, Sr., endangerment of fish runs by oil train pollution is a key concern.

“For generations we have witnessed the destruction of our way of life, our fishing areas, and the resources we hold dear,” said Williams in a statement. “The Boldt decision very clearly interpreted the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott to reserve 50 percent of the salmon and management to the tribes. The federal government must now partner with tribes to protect the 50 percent of what remains of our fishing rights. The Tulalip Tribes will not allow our children’s future to be taken away for a dollar today. Our treaty rights are not for sale,” said Williams.

According to Commissioner Goldmark, tribal leadership on the oil train issue is essential.

“Tribal leaders bring unique perspective and concern about threats to our treasured landscapes,” said Goldmark. “It’s an honor to join them in this important message about the growth of oil train traffic in our state and the threat it poses to public safety, environmental sustainability, and our quality of life.”

This doc about “bomb trains” filled with crude oil will make your head explode

By Ted Alvarez, Grist

 

VICE News just released Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Raila 23-minute-long documentary investigating the explosive oil trains that regularly run from the Bakken shale to the Pacific Northwest. That might seem a bit long for web video, but you should watch it anyway — mostly because Thomas the Terror Engine is headed to your town, but also because Jerry Bruckheimer has nothing on the terrifying explosions at the 5:09 and 6:00 marks.

 

Oh, and you can find out if you live near a bomb-train blast zone right here. (Spoiler alert: You probably do.)

Seattle Oil-Train Derailment Hits Close to Home for Quinault

Courtesy Dana Robinson Slote Seattle City Council via radio station KPLUNo one was hurt—this time. The first oil train derailment in Washington State happened under the Magnolia Bridge.

Courtesy Dana Robinson Slote Seattle City Council via radio station KPLU
No one was hurt—this time. The first oil train derailment in Washington State happened under the Magnolia Bridge.

 

Indian Country Today, 7/25/14

 

Spills. Explosions. Deaths. Injuries.

The oil train that jumped the tracks outside Seattle the other day did not do any of those things, but it still highlighted concerns about rail transport of crude, especially highly flammable oil sands bitumen.

The 100-car train operated by Burlington Northern Railroad, filled with crude from the Bakken oil fields, was pulling out of the Interbay rail yard going five miles per hour when one locomotive, a buffer car carrying sand, and three tanker cars derailed at about 2 a.m. on July 24, the Associated Press reported. Two of the tankers tilted, one to a 45-degree angle, a railway spokesman told AP. That one had to be pumped out and hauled off for repairs.

As with the other half-dozen or so industrial-train derailments over the past year—starting with the runaway train that vaporized the center of 6,000-population Lac Mégantic in Quebec, Canada, along with 47 people last summer—the Quinault Indian Nation was on hand to warn about the perils of this type of transport.

RELATED: Exploded Quebec Oil Train Was Bringing Crude From North Dakota’s Bakken to New Brunswick Refineries

“It was sheer luck that the cars, carrying 100 loads of Bakken crude oil, didn’t spill or even catch fire,” Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp said in a statement. “If that had occurred the chances are there would have been tragic loss. If fire had occurred, the odds are it would have burned out of control for days, and oil would have made its way into Puget Sound. People need to know that every time an oil train travels by, this is the risk that is being taken.”

Tribes are not alone in their unease. Local officials also expressed consternation.

“I’m very concerned that large volatile oil trains pose significant risk for derailment, fire, explosion, loss of property and life,” King County Executive Dow Constantine told MyNorthwest.com. “We need to have a conversation about what is appropriate to ship through these heavily populated areas and what kind of notice people deserve that these shipments are taking place.”

The Quinault and other groups fiercely oppose proposals for oil train export terminals at Vancouver and Grays Harbor.

RELATED: Lynchburg Oil Train Explosion Refuels Rail-Terminal Opposition in Northwest

The May 2014 derailment of a grain train in Grays Harbor County did nothing to inspire confidence, either.

RELATED: Grain Car Derailment Could Have Been Oil: Quinault Raise Alarm Again

“These accidents have occurred before,” said Sharp, who is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and area vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, after the Seattle derailment. “They will occur again. Even with the new safety measures proposed by President [Barack] Obama and Governor [Jay] Inslee, the accidents will occur. The rail and bridge infrastructure in this country is far too inadequate to service the vast expansion of oil traffic we are witnessing.”

The railroad company’s assertion that there had been no public threat because no oil had escaped also came under scrutiny.

“I have to disagree with the statement that there was no public threat,” said Sharp in the Quinault statement. “There was. In fact, there is a public threat every time an oil train passes by. There have been too many accidents, too many derailments, too many fires and too many spills.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/07/25/seattle-oil-train-derailment-hits-close-home-quinault-156061

State energy panel: Land-use zone allows oil terminal

EFSEC stresses Tesoro-Savage plan not a done deal

By Aaron Corvin, The Columbian, July 15, 2014

The site where Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies want to build the Northwest’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver is appropriately zoned for such a purpose, the state panel reviewing the proposal decided Tuesday.

But that doesn’t mean the companies will be allowed to launch a rail-and-river operation handling as much as 380,000 barrels of crude per day at the Port of Vancouver, according to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.

During its regular public meeting in Olympia that was accessible by telephone, the evaluation council voted 8 to 1 to settle what it described as a very narrow question: Does the city’s heavy industrial zone at the port allow for such uses as the oil transfer terminal proposed by Tesoro and Savage?

And while the evaluation council answered “yes,” it also went to great lengths to point out that the question of whether the companies should actually get to build and operate their project is far from settled.

Approval of a narrow land-use consistency matter “does not, by any means, translate into an approval of the proposed project,” Bill Lynch, chairman of the evaluation council, said Tuesday.

The council’s decision was unfavorable to the city of Vancouver. The city had asked the council to put off deciding the land-use consistency issue until the analysis of the oil terminal’s environmental impacts is finished. Bryan Snodgrass, principal planner for the city who was appointed to serve on the evaluation council during the review of the Tesoro-Savage proposal, cast the lone “no” vote Tuesday.

At the same time, the evaluation council’s decision enables the companies to take another small step forward in a slow, grinding environmental-impact review process that looks like it will stretch on further.

Although state law says the evaluation council has one year to make its recommendation on a large energy-project proposal — and gives Gov. Jay Inslee another 60 days to accept, reject or send the proposal back to the council — the law also provides for extensions.

During the hearing, Sonia Bumpus, a specialist for the evaluation council, said the Tesoro-Savage permit application, filed in late August, is nearing its one-year anniversary. A lot more work needs to be done, she said, so more time will be needed.

Language added

The evaluation council also agreed to put language in its land-use consistency approval making it clear that people may still raise numerous concerns about the proposed oil terminal, including everything from potential oil spills and fire risks to negative impacts on neighborhoods and city services.

The language was included in response to remarks by Snodgrass, who said he had concerns with an “unqualified” finding that the Tesoro-Savage proposal fits the city’s zoning rules. Other evaluation council members agreed, saying the zoning approval should be construed narrowly and not taken as a dismissal of environmental-impact and community concerns.

The council’s decision followed a May 28 hearing during which it heard arguments over the land-use consistency issue.

Jay Derr, an attorney for Tesoro and Savage, had argued the land-use issue was a housekeeping matter. The evaluation council should allow the companies and the public to move immediately onto the project’s environmental impact statement, he said.

The city argued otherwise, saying the oil terminal doesn’t automatically comply with the city’s land-use rules and policies. It’s not possible for the city or the evaluation council to decide the land-use matter “without knowing the full extent” of the project’s environmental impacts, Bronson Potter, city attorney for Vancouver, said.

Although the Tesoro-Savage proposal moved forward Tuesday, it still has a long way to go.

The evaluation council’s decision-making process is complex, involving multiple permit reviews, a detailed environmental-impact analysis, many opportunities for public comments and an adjudicative process where arguments fly in an atmosphere not unlike that of a trial court.

The city of Vancouver, which opposes the oil terminal, could still ask the evaluation council to reconsider signing off on the oil terminal’s compatibility with city zoning, in light of the draft environmental impact statement.

And it could present other evidence against the Tesoro-Savage proposal during hearings. Likewise, the companies will be able to push back, presenting their own arguments and evidence.

The evaluation council will eventually make a recommendation to Inslee, who has the final say. Even then, opponents could still appeal the governor’s decision to the state Supreme Court.

Study finds oil from BP spill impedes fish’s swimming

A ship floats amongst a sea of spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. By kris krüg via Wikimedia Commons

A ship floats amongst a sea of spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. By kris krüg via Wikimedia Commons

By JENNY STALETOVICH, The Miami Herald

MIAMI — In a lab on Virginia Key, a group of baby fish are being put through their paces on a tiny fish treadmill.

The inch-long mahi-mahi, being used as part of a study to assess damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that spread crude across the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days in 2010, were exposed when they were embryos to oil collected during the cleanup. Now, at 25 days old, the oil is doing exactly what scientists suspected it would do: hamper the swimming of one of the ocean’s fastest fish.

And significantly so. Young mahi usually swim at a rate of five body lengths per second. For perspective, imagine a 6-foot man swimming 30 feet in a second. The fish, struggling against a current in a little tube attached to a propeller called a swim tunnel, can only muster three body lengths.

For a fish that needs speed to survive, this could mean bad news. Mahi, one of the most popular fish on menus, is already heavily fished. So losing a generation to an oil spill could take a toll. It also suggests that other fish suffered from the spill.

“Any life form is optimized compromise,” Martin Grosell, one of the study’s authors, said as a way of explaining physiology perfectly evolved to maximize speed. And if you mess with that treaty of parts, he said, “you’re going to increase its vulnerability.”

The treadmill study marks the second in recent months by the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science that has found that oil from the largest spill in U.S. history damages young pelagic fish, the large predators found in the open ocean. In March, UM researchers working with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists determined that the BP oil also damaged the hearts of tuna embryos, a condition that likely killed them in the wild.

Both studies – disputed by BP – are worrisome because tuna, whose numbers have dropped by as much as 75 percent in the last 40 years, and mahi began their spring spawning just as the spill occurred, sending fragile embryos across warm surface waters and into a patchwork of oil slicks that covered more than six square miles.

These newest findings, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, build on that earlier report by looking at fish as they age.

BP says the study is invalid because, according to the company, the tests used concentrations of oil not found in the Gulf during or after the spill. Researchers also failed to look at adult fish, spokesman Jason Ryan said in a statement.

“The tests only looked at impacts to fish under one year of age,” he said. “Even if there had been an effect on a single-year class of such fish, the study does not provide any evidence to show that an effect on that group of fish would have had a population-level impact.”

After the spill, NOAA began enlisting scientists to investigate the damage it caused – so far, the studies range from the acoustic damage done to endangered sperm whales to oil in fiddler crabs. For pelagic fish, which are particularly sensitive to changes in their near-constant deep-water environment, scientists want to know how much oil it takes to affect the fish and what those effects are.

To test the mahi, researcher Ed Mager first mixed oil from the spill and seawater in a Waring blender at concentrations replicating the spill. He exposed one group of embryos to the mix for two days and then raised them in clean seawater. Another group was raised in clean water and exposed to oil when they reached about 25 days.

Mager also wanted to ensure that no other factors stressed their performance. Like all babies, the mahi startle easily. So he wrapped the treadmill – a clear, four-inch swim tunnel outfitted with a propeller and immersed in a two-foot tank – in black plastic. Mager, who studied deadly respiratory viruses in premature human babies before he switched to fish, then curtained off the area and monitored his little subjects with a video camera.

Mahi are carnivores and foragers, so they swim fast. But when he turned on the treadmill, Mager was surprised to see that the outwardly healthy fish swam much slower. The ones exposed as embryos swam 37 percent slower. Those exposed as juveniles dropped 22 percent.

Because they are so sensitive to change, pelagic fish – and particularly fragile embryos and juveniles – can act as a kind of canary in a coal mine. So the information that Mager and the team have collected for the study, one of several ongoing at the school, will be fed to modelers to determine a more expansive view of the ecosystem after the spill and help figure out the limits for how much oil it can tolerate before damage happens.

“We’ll be a little closer to knowing what to look for and how bad when, I cynically say, the next spill happens. Because it will,” Grosell said.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/24/4197992/study-finds-oil-from-bp-spill.html#storylink=cpy

Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee Issues Directive On Oil Train Safety

Source: The Columbian

Gov. Jay Inslee directed the state Thursday to tackle mounting public safety concerns and develop a spill response plan as oil train traffic continues to increase, particularly in Southwest Washington.

He announced the directive at a meeting of The Columbian’s editorial board in Vancouver.

“The Pacific Northwest is experiencing rapid changes in how crude oil is moving through rail corridors and over Washington waters, creating new safety and environmental concerns,” the directive reads.

The governor asked the Department of Ecology to work with other state agencies, the Federal Railroad Administration and tribal governments to “identify data and information gaps that hinder improvements in public safety and spill prevention and response.”

Specifically, the governor’s directive asks agencies to: – Characterize risk of accidents along rail lines. – Review state and federal laws and rules with respect to rail safety and identify regulatory gaps. – Assess the relative risk of Bakken crude with respect to other forms of crude oil. – Identify data and information gaps that hinder improvements in public safety and spill prevention and response. – Begin development of spill response plans for impacted counties. – Identify potential actions that can be coordinated with neighboring states and British Columbia. – Identify, prioritize, and estimate costs for state actions that will improve public safety and spill prevention and response.

He set an Oct. 1 deadline for agencies to respond.

He also said he’ll reach out to other states to develop coordinated oil transportation safety and spill response plans, and pledged to ask the 2015-17 Legislature for money for oil train safety.

The directive comes as the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is reviewing an application by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. to build an oil shipping terminal at the Port of Vancouver. Bakken crude would arrive at Vancouver by train and leave by ship or barge on the Columbia River.

As governor, Inslee will have the final say on the Tesoro-Savage permit. “We will make the right decision at the right time,” he said, without tipping his hand.

The first-term Democrat is in Vancouver all day today. He presented awards to Washington State Department of Transportation employees, and is scheduled to visit a local technology firm, Smith-Root, that is expanding. This evening he will give the commencement address at the Washington School for the Deaf’s graduation ceremony.