Tesoro refinery in Anacortes has proposed an expansion project that would increase the risk of a chemical spill in the Salish Sea.
The "Clean Products Upgrade (CPU) Project" is a proposal to upgrade the refinery to produce and export xylene, a flammable petrochemical used to make plastic and synthetics.
The plan to produce 15,000 barrels of xylene per day for export to Asia would bring an additional five tankers per month through the Salish Sea. Each additional tanker or barge in the Salish Sea compounds the already crowded shipping traffic and increases the risk of spills of crude oil and other refined products.
In addition to being highly flammable, xylene is toxic, clear and odorless, making it difficult to detect or clean up if spilled.
Read more: Xylene 101 from Sightline Institute.
In March 2017, Skagit County released the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposal. The public has a limited amount of time to comment on the environmental impacts of the project. Read all the project permits, reports, and documents at tesoroanacorteseis.com.
Environmental impacts identified in the draft EIS:
tanker carrying xylene spilled 42,000 gallons into the Mississippi River in 2007. During that time, humans and animals exposed to xylene can face serious health threats by inhaling or ingesting the chemical. (Sightline Institute)
When inhaled or ingested, xylene can be moderately toxic to your central nervous system. Because xylene is less dense than — so does not dissolve in — water, human and animals are particularly prone to being impacted by a xylene spill on land or in the Salish Sea. The main health effects of inhaling xylene is depression of the central nervous system, with symptoms including headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Long-term exposure may lead to short-term memory loss, among other effects. (National Institute of Health)
Results of studies in animals indicate that large amounts of xylene can cause changes in the liver and harmful effects on the kidneys, lungs, heart, and nervous system. Short-term exposure to very high concentrations of xylene causes death in animals, as well as irritation and inflammation of the skin. (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
review by Sightline Institute of Tesoro’s safety record finds a checkered history, including persistent problems at the Golden Eagle Refinery in California (which would supply some of the reformate for xylene production), a deadly fire at the Anacortes Refinery, and a troubling pattern of withholding information from the public and regulators.
Tesoro Anacortes Clean Product Upgrade (Skagit County Planning and Development Services)
Xylene project divides the community (Skagit Valley Herald, June 2016)
Public comment period for Tesoro’s Anacortes Xylene Facility closes April 15 (Sightline Institute, March 2016)
How Tesoro’s petrochem plans may threaten Anacortes & the Salish Sea (Sightline Institute, August 2015)
What is xylene, and what does it mean for Puget Sound? (Sightline Institute, December 2014)
The dirt on Tesoro (Sightline Institute, July 2014)