Crag Halts Oil Refinery Expansion on the Salish Sea


In December 2019, Crag helped Puget Sound area communities effectively halt plans to expand the Anacortes Oil Refinery for the production and export mixed xylenes—a petrochemical product used to make plastics.

The petrochemical project would have caused a dramatic increase in energy use at the refinery, resulting in a climate impact equivalent to adding 75,000 vehicles to the road. The project also would have added 120 vessel transits annually through narrow shipping channels in the Salish Sea, home to the critically endangered Southern Resident orcas.

The Salish Sea, off the western coast of Washington, provides habitat for Southern Resident killer whales, salmon, seabirds, and hosts of other sensitive species. Many residents of island communities in the Salish Sea rely on consistent and predictable ferry service for their livelihoods. And thousands of visitors come to the San Juan Islands every year to enjoy countless recreational opportunities and take in the magnificent northwest Washington scenery. All of this was threatened by the proposed refinery expansion.

On October 11, 2019, Crag successfully appealed a Shorelines Hearings Board decision in which Tesoro’s oil that greenlighted the Anacortes Oil Refinery to initiate a $400 million expansion of harmful petrochemical production. In a settlement agreement announced on December 30, 2019, the owners of the Anacortes Oil Refinery agreed to withdraw plans to produce and export mixed xylenes. In exchange, six environmental organizations represented by Crag agreed to drop an ongoing appeal of related permits. Skagit County, which issued the permits, also signed the agreement.

This agreement is a win for the Salish Sea, local air quality, and public health. Tesoro packaged their petrochemical export project for environmental review together with unrelated upgrades for low-sulfur fuels and controlling dockside emissions, attempting to hide the impacts and make it more difficult to challenge. We called them out, and have arrived at a compromise that allows Tesoro to complete their clean products upgrades and emissions control system without the mixed xylenes project.”

– Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program Manager at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, one of the six environmental organizations that Crag represented

This agreement goes to show the importance of holding the line against dirty fossil fuel projects. The earlier court victory set the stage for this positive outcome, highlighting the power of local communities and environmental organizations to stand up and make a difference in the fight against climate change.”

-Oliver Stiefel, Crag Staff Attorney


Discover more about the Southern Resident Killer Whale population

Learn about this case from an environmentalist nonprofit, the Puget Soundkeeper. 

Read the case post for more about the details and history of the work. You can also check out the October 2019 news post and December 2019 news post.

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