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Quinault Indian Nation v. Imperium Terminal Services, LLC

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20198
Nos. 45887-0-II, (Wash. Ct. App., 10/20/2015)

A Washington appellate court upheld an administrative board decision invalidating the Department of Ecology's and a city's threshold determinations for two crude oil terminal development projects under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), but denied environmental groups' claim that additional environmental safeguards applied. Below, the state Shoreline Hearing Board invalidated the threshold determinations because the agency and city failed to consider the cumulative impact of a similar terminal development project. The permit applicant appealed this decision, but the court dismissed, ruling that the issue is now moot. The agency's and the city's mitigated determinations of nonsignificance have been withdrawn, the parties have agreed to a determination of significance, and an EIS will be prepared. Environmental groups also appealed the board's decision, claiming that state law required the permit applicants to demonstrate financial responsibility for a possible oil spill at the SEPA threshold determination phase and before permitting. But the court disagreed. The statute and its implementing regulations are silent as to when a showing of financial responsibility must be made. Rather, the applicants need only demonstrate financial responsibility before they begin operations. The groups also argued that potential impacts of the projects must be reviewed under the Ocean Resources Management Act (ORMA). Again, the court rejected this claim because neither project involves an ocean or transportation use as they are defined under ORMA.