Marathon Petroleum Corp. is dropping plans to manufacture and export 15,000 barrels per day of mixed xylenes — petrochemicals used to make plastics — from its Anacortes refinery.
The agreement, signed by Marathon and six environmental organizations, was announced Monday.
In exchange for dropping the xylene proposal, the environmental groups will not oppose Marathon’s construction of a marine vapor emission control system, which is designed to capture and burn vapors that would otherwise be released during loading and unloading of petrochemicals at Marathon’s pier. The system was needed to manage the increased emissions that would have occurred from the export of xylene; according to the organizations, the unit can also be used to limit existing emissions.
The environmental organizations are Stand.earth, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Friends of the San Juans, Friends of the Earth, Puget Soundkeeper, and Evergreen Islands.
The organizations alleged the production and export of xylenes would have caused a significant increase in refinery energy use and that the county’s environmental impact statement did not adequately address the risk of oil and chemical spills and increased threats to the endangered Southern Resident orca population.
According to Marathon public affairs manager Matt Gill, the xylene proposal was inherited from Andeavor, which was purchased by Marathon in October 2018.
“(Marathon) will continue to pursue other opportunities to improve operations in a safe, environmentally sustainable way,” Gill wrote to the Anacortes American. “The Marathon Petroleum Anacortes refinery will continue to pursue the possibility of investing in the construction of an additional air pollution control device, which will significantly reduce emissions. This project is being considered voluntarily by Marathon Petroleum in a continued effort to further protect our environment.”
He added, “Marathon Petroleum is committed to being a good steward of the environment. We are involved in multiple programs, support several organizations and implement various initiatives that aim to protect the environment we all share and the local communities in which we operate.”
Leaders of the environmental organizations said the agreement is good for the environment and good for Marathon.
“Allowing the marine vapor control system while preventing xylene export and manufacture is a win-win,” Evergreen Islands president Tom Glade said in the announcement of the agreement. “The (vapor control system) will improve air quality and working conditions on the dock, while avoiding the impacts on the climate from new and unnecessary petrochemical processing.”
Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program manager for RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, added, “(We) have arrived at a compromise that allows (Marathon) to complete their clean products upgrades and emissions control system without the mixed xylenes project.”
Summer 2015: Tesoro proposes the project and begins filing permit applications.
March 2016: Skagit County requires a full environmental impact statement (EIS) be conducted.
March to April 2017: Skagit County releases a draft EIS; more than 7,500 comments are submitted in response. A majority of comments urge the county to address concerns over worker safety standards, petrochemical spills in the Salish Sea, risks to endangered orcas, increased crude oil train traffic and use of the new facility for crude oil export.
July 2017: Skagit County releases a final EIS, which is substantially unchanged from the draft EIS.
Aug. 1, 2017: Tesoro changes its name to Andeavor; its March Point refinery becomes Andeavor Anacortes Refinery.
November 2017: More than 100 people attend a Skagit County Hearing Examiner’s public hearing on the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit for the Marine Vapor Emissions Control Unit. Sixty of 65 presenters speak against the permit.
December 2017: The Skagit County Hearing Examiner issues the permit. Six environmental organizations, represented by Crag Law Center, appeal the decision to the Skagit County Board of Commissioners.
Feb. 27, 2018: The Board of County Commissioners conducts a public hearing. More than 100 attend.
March 2018: The Board of County Commissioners upholds the Hearing Examiner’s decision.
April 2018: The six environmental organizations request a review of the decision by the state Shoreline Hearings Board.
September 2018: The Shoreline Hearings Board upholds the permit.
Oct. 1, 2018: Andeavor is purchased by Marathon Petroleum Corp.; the March Point refinery becomes Marathon Anacortes Refinery.
November 2018: The six environmental organizations file an appeal in Thurston County Superior Court.
October 2019: Thurston County Superior Court overturns the decision of Shoreline Hearings Board and remands it to the board for reconsideration.
December 2019: Marathon and appellants reach an agreement. Marathon agrees to drop the mixed xylenes proposal; the environmental organizations agree to drop their appeals.