Press Release: Labor and environmental groups host public forum on improving oil refinery safety standards

April 26, 2019


Thursday, May 2: Nearly 10 years after a fatal disaster at the Anacortes Refinery, refinery workers, safety experts, and community members will discuss Washington’s groundbreaking effort to adopt new safety standards.

BURLINGTON, Wash. — Almost 10 years after an explosion at the Tesoro Anacortes refinery took the lives of seven workers, local labor and environmental groups will offer a chance for the public to learn about Washington’s ongoing efforts to adopt comprehensive and enforceable oil refinery safety rules — despite fierce resistance from refinery lobbyists — on May 2, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Burlington Community Center, 1011 Greenleaf Ave, Burlington. This free presentation is hosted by United Steelworkers, the BlueGreen Alliance, RE Sources and Evergreen Islands.

Safety rules under consideration by the state Department of Labor and Industries would protect workers and communities of the four Whatcom and Skagit refineries from similar tragedies, while keeping preventable accidents from releasing toxic materials into the air and the Salish Sea. The Department of Labor and Industry will soon seek public input on these rules, called Process Safety Management (PSM).

“These new rules are quite literally a matter of life or death for workers. The conditions they work under are inherently dangerous, and they deserve protections commensurate with the risk they face every day on the job,” said Steve Garey, retired oil refinery worker and member of Washington BlueGreen Alliance Executive Committee.

Attendees on May 2 will learn about the need for public input into the state’s rulemaking process, and about investigations into past incidents, refinery safety regulations, and more. Speakers include United Steelworker members, a member of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, a former chief scientist overseeing California’s refinery safety campaign, and from staff at RE Sources and Evergreen Islands.

“Refinery accidents endanger workers and people living near refineries, and often release toxic materials into the air and waters. That’s why for years, RE Sources has taken part in supporting refinery workers in their efforts to keep themselves — and their communities, water, and air — safe,” said Eleanor Hines, North Sound Baykeeper and Lead Scientist at RE Sources.

An oil industry lobbying group, Western States Petroleum Association, has sought to weaken the standards needed by Washington’s five refineries, which are the only ones in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, handling 10 billion gallons of crude oil every year. In 2017, California approved groundbreaking safety rules, and Washington has an opportunity to follow suit.

For details, visit Light refreshments will be provided.

WHAT: Oil Refinery and Community Safety Forum
WHERE: Burlington Community Center, 1011 Greenleaf Ave, Burlington WA.
WHEN: Thursday, May 2, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
MORE INFO:, and on Facebook at

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RE Sources is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the health of Northwest Washington’s people and ecosystems through the application of science, education, advocacy, and action. For more information, visit
Photo courtesy of Scott Butner, KUOW