Final environmental review of Tesoro xylene project doesn’t address concerns over worker safety, tanker spills, threats to Southern Resident orcas

July 11, 2017

On July 10, 2017, Skagit County Planning and Development Services issued the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Tesoro Anacortes refinery expansion project, which would add capacity and allow the refinery to begin producing and exporting xylene — a toxic, flammable petrochemical used to make plastic and synthetics.

The project would produce 15,000 barrels (630,000 gallons) of xylene per day for export to Asia. It would also increase Salish Sea tanker traffic by an additional five tankers per month, creating the risk of a toxic spill that would threaten fragile marine habitat and the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

More than 7,500 people submitted comments on the project’s draft EIS. The majority asked Skagit County to use the final EIS to address concerns over worker safety standards, petrochemical spills in the Salish Sea, risks to endangered orcas, increasing crude oil train traffic, and use of the new facility for crude oil export. Commenters also asked the county to separately review the xylene export and clean products upgrade components of the project, while properly accounting for greenhouse gas pollution.

The final EIS, issued just two months after the public comment period on the draft EIS, does not adequately address the concerns in many of these areas, despite an overwhelming majority of commenters stating that the project should not be permitted as proposed.

In response, environmental organizations StandRE Sources for Sustainable Communities, and Friends of the San Juans issued the following statements:

“Scientists, concerned residents, and many others have spoken out in an overwhelming majority against the Tesoro Anacortes refinery expansion project. Although the final environmental review failed to take into account many peoples’ concerns, we know this project and the increased tanker traffic from the export of xylene will impact our climate, the health of our communities, and the sensitive marine habitat of the Salish Sea,” said Janet Marino, Program Director at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.

“Xylene is toxic and highly flammable. This project would substantially increase risks to workers and communities surrounding the Anacortes refinery. Following the deadly 2010 refinery explosion, an investigation from the Chemical Safety Board found that Tesoro had ‘normalized hazardous working conditions.’ Despite thousands of people advocating for increased worker safety protections in the final EIS, Skagit County has required no additional safety measures and is relying on Tesoro’s claims of voluntary changes in their safety culture,” said Alex Ramel, Field Director at

“The increased threat of a toxic spill from this project remain a significant risk to the endangered Southern Resident orcas and the health of our region. The final environmental review fails to consider cumulative impacts from the massive increase in vessel traffic through the Salish Sea — not just the Tesoro refinery project, but the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline proposal in British Columbia. Washington state already has inadequate oil spill prevention and response procedures, and the increase in tanker traffic from these projects only puts our sensitive marine environment and economy even more at risk,” said Stephanie Buffum, Executive Director of Friends of the San Juans.

Media Contact: Alex Ramel, Stand,, 360-305-5079