Oil train hearing set for Monday in Lynnwood

LYNNWOOD — Snohomish County residents Monday can help regulators shape a critical study of an Anacortes refinery project that could bring more oil trains through the community.

The state Department of Ecology will conduct a hearing to hear concerns that the public wants addressed in the upcoming review of Shell’s proposed crude-by-rail unloading facility.

It is set to run from 4 to 8 p.m. in the Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. SW. Public comments will be taken starting at 5 p.m.

It will be the third session to help the state agency and Skagit County figure out what to cover in the environmental impact study of the project. Similar meetings attracted big crowds in Mount Vernon and Anacortes last week.

Dean Smith, of Everett, founder of the Snohomish County Train Watch, expects Monday’s turnout will be high as well.

“These hearings are what will determine what gets studied and that could determine whether or not this crude-by-rail facility is permitted,” said Smith, whose volunteer group tracks the number of oil-bearing trains passing through the county.

Smith intends to testify. He said he will stress the need to consider the additional risk of accidents by allowing more trains along a stretch of track in Mukilteo and Everett prone to disruption due to landslides.

“These trains will run at the base of our very fragile bluffs,” he said. “If one of those landslides comes down and hits a train we could be in real trouble.”

Shell wants to build a rail spur of more than a mile in length from the existing BNSF Railway line onto the company’s Puget Sound Refinery property near Anacortes. Crude oil brought in by train to this proposed facility would replace and supplement shipments now delivered to the refinery by marine tanker.

If built, it could mean as many as six oil trains of 102-cars apiece traveling through Snohomish County each week, according to the proposal. BNSF already has about 12 crude-oil trains coming through the county each week, according to information the rail firm provides the state.

Monday’s meeting will let the public tell regulators what they think should be studied. And they’ll be encouraged to also comment on possible alternatives and conditions to impose to offset any negative impacts.

About 350 people attended the first two hearings. Sixty-five testified in Mount Vernon and 55 did so in Anacortes, according to ecology department spokesman Larry Altose.

In Lynnwood, one room will be set up as open house with information on the project and a second room will be used for the hearing. The open house will be open from 4-8 p.m. with the hearing starting at 5 p.m.

A lottery system will be used to determine speakers. Numbered tickets will be given out then randomly selected and the numbers shown on a big screen. This process was used in the earlier hearings and everyone who signed up to speak was able to do so, Altose said.

In addition to the hearings, comments can be emailed through Nov. 5 to comments@shellraileis.com.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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