ANACORTES, Wash. (AP) — Shell Puget Sound Refinery announced Thursday it has terminated plans for a proposed oil-by-rail project at its refinery in Washington state.
Under the plan, trains would have brought crude oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota to replace some of the supply Shell currently gets from Alaska's North Slope.
Refinery general manager Shirley Yap told the Skagit Valley Herald (https://goo.gl/iLxiMW) Thursday that recent low oil prices and abundant production elsewhere have slowed Midwest production, making it less of a good investment.
"At today's prices even if I had a (rail) facility, I would not be buying Bakken," Yap said.
The proposal had been in the works for years with Skagit County officials concluding that there weren't significant impacts from the project in Anacortes. But conservation groups appealed and a county hearing examiner ruled a full project review was needed.
Shell's appeal of that decision was dismissed last year and a draft environmental impact statement regarding the project was released earlier this week by state and local officials.
The environmental statement being released was a good milestone at which to make the refinery's announcement, Yap said. She was confident, she said, the facility could have been built following the environmental statement's guidelines.
But the announcement was news to Skagit County Planning Director Dale Pernula.
"They've been working so hard, and we've been working so diligently on this. It just really surprised us," he said.
Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice who represented conservation groups in their legal challenge of the project, called the decision to stop the project an extraordinary victory for the people of Skagit County and Washington state.
"Having a full and transparent public process exposed everyone - including apparently Shell itself - to the risks and harms of this project," Boyles said in an email.
The refinery will continue receiving crude from Alaska by ship and from Canada by pipeline and will also examine other potential sources.
"There will be other opportunities for us to invest in," refinery spokesman Cory Ertel told the newspaper. "This just isn't a good investment at this time anymore."