Shell Oil-by-Rail Project Affects Safe Shippers – Scoping Comments due November 5, 2015

Our neighbor, the Shell refinery in Anacortes, wants to bring in oil by rail from the Bakken fields in North Dakota. To do so, they would need to build a new rail track from the existing BNSF line in Burlington to their refinery on March Point in order to receive six 102-car trains per week.

Shell was hoping that they could quietly accomplish this without public scrutiny (sound familiar? like a certain oil rig we know?) No way! Safe Shippers sent letters asking for a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of this project – our voices were heard, so now we have another chance to speak up. We are getting so good at this!

Remember the scoping process for the Gateway Pacific coal terminal at Cherry Point? We showed up in the thousands to have our say. We spoke at hearings, we wrote letters. Here we go again, Safe Shippers – we know how to do this!


Construct a connecting rail spur to Shell Puget Sound Refinery (Anacortes), new roads, and new pumping equipment in order to receive six 102-car trains per week carrying Bakken shale crude oil from North Dakota/Montana.

Our neighbors on the mainland are worried about everything that this project could bring: more exploding rail cars, more air and noise pollution, degradation of wetlands, threats to clean waterways, disruption of wildlife habitats, increasing CO2 emissions, and on and on.

For a thorough listing of concerns, please click here to see the “Findings of Facts” as submitted by the Skagit County Hearing Examiner who determined, based on the number of concerns (and on comment letters such as ours), that this EIS was necessary.

Islanders would be directly affected by this project, too. We breathe the same air and are surrounded by the same Salish Sea that would be polluted from the increase in rail traffic and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

Increased rail traffic on the mainland, not to mention a rail accident, would mean disruption to our lifeline of food, goods and services.

Shell’s proposal makes no mention of marine shipments of crude oil, but their silence on this issue does not insure a guarantee. In light of Congressional support to lift the ban on crude oil exports, Safe Shippers are adamant about this – we do not want our Salish Sea to become our nation’s oil export highway. 

SUGGESTED SCOPING COMMENTS (what the Environmental Impact Statement needs to include)
This is our opportunity to say what’s needed in the EIS (you may send in as many scoping comments as you’d like — in multiple communications, or all in one). Please be sure to include who you are, where you live, and how this project proposal could impact you and others. Here are some suggestions for your scoping comments: 

• Ask for thorough studies of the impacts from the project on air quality and water quality in the Salish Sea (not only at March Point, as Shell would prefer) because the entire water system of the Salish Sea is interconnected and all water and air will eventually reach our islands.   

• Ask for studies on the impacts from this project on the waters of Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Skagit River, because the impacts to eelgrass and salmon affect the health of our island icons, the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.

• Ask that these studies include the cumulative impacts from all the regional oil-by-rail facility projects, proposed and existing, including the Tesoro, BP, and Phillips 66 refineries, and the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (coal export) at Cherry Point.

• Ask that this project not be permitted unless there is a binding commitment that Shell will not increase production and will not ship the crude oil received by rail from its refinery without refining it first. Ask for enforcement to ensure that an oil-by-rail project does not turn into a crude-oil-export project, generating yet more vessel traffic to our island waters.

• We ask that these studies include a cumulative impact analysis of all the regional marine vessel facility projects, existing and proposed, including the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion in British Columbia – any and all projects that would bring additional vessel traffic to the Salish Sea.


Attend any of the scoping meetings:
• Mount Vernon: Tuesday, October 13 • Best Western Plus, 2300 Market St. • 4­-8 pm

• Anacortes: Wednesday, October 14 • Anacortes Middle School, 2202 M Ave • 4-­8 pm
• Lynnwood: Monday, October 19 • Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. SW • 4­-8 pm
For carpooling to the meeting in Anacortes, please e-mail Katie Fleming at FRIENDS of the San Juans:
If you attend a hearing, please wear red to show your solidarity for the protection of the Salish Sea.
You may also submit your comments in any of these ways:

• Online:

• E-mail:

• Phone: 1-844-254-9668 (the call is toll-free and limited to 5 minutes; there is no limit to the number of calls you can make)

• Mail: Shell Rail EIS, PO Box 21206 Seattle, WA 98111

• Hand delivery: Skagit County Planning and Development Services, 1800 Continental Pl., Mount Vernon, WA 98273 (during regular office hours)
Scoping comments are due November 5, 2015!


More information on the project:

Listen on the radio — interviews with Skagit community organizers and tips for writing a scoping comment:

More information on the scoping process: