Supreme Court hears case against 'environmentally risky' oil terminals

The Washington State Supreme Court heard a case against oil exports through Grays Harbor this morning.

The Supreme Court heard a case against oil exports through Grays Harbor Thursday morning.

It is the highest step in the legal ladder that activists have climbed, arguing before Washington's Supreme Court that oil export terminals in Grays Harbor are too environmentally risky.

"The concern is safety, also impact of our way of life. We've lived and existed here since time immemorial, and the risks and impacts posed by these oil terminals could change that forever, and we're not going to let that happen," said Tyson Johnston, vice president of the Quinault Indian Nation.

The Quinault Nation is just one of the groups that has spoken out against the oil terminals.

Protests and public criticism have mounted for years. Now opponents are asking for special review of the project. They want the court to apply the Ocean Resources Management Act, also called ORMA. It would require a review process opponents believe would stop the project

"That law should apply here. Ecology and the city of Hoquiam did not apply that law. If you applied that law, these projects would be banned," explained Earth Justice attorney Kristen Boyles. "The oil shipping terminals are all risk and no reward for the people of Washington."

But ORMA does not apply here, if you ask the oil company's attorney.  Sven Brandt-Erichsen told the court that the work will happen on land, and the special review is only required for work on the water.

"What triggers the act is the activity occurring out in the coastal waters. If you trigger this by putting a pipe on an existing dock, which is what we are doing here, then you trigger it for every fuel dock that goes in at every fuel dock in all four coastal counties," Brandt-Erichsen said.

Marine resource jobs make up about one-third of Grays Harbor's workforce. Critics say an oil spill could destroy the economy.

"The reason they're bringing this project in is for jobs. They promise maybe 30 jobs. An oil spill would cause the loss of over 3,600 jobs," said Grays Harbor resident Arthur Grunbaum.

It could take months for a decision, but opponents of the oil terminals say that even if they lose this battle, they will continue to fight.

Copyright 2016 KING


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