Action Update: Phillips 66

In May 2023, Friends of the San Juans received a concerning anonymous alert regarding changes at the Phillips 66 Refinery in Ferndale, apparently without a permit. These changes could allow the refinery to function as a transshipment facility, receiving diesel for resale in Canada via rail and truck. 

Acting swiftly, Friends submitted a Code Enforcement Investigation Request to Whatcom County on May 15, 2023. However, the county’s response was limited to requiring an after-the-fact permit application from Phillips 66. 

Phillips 66 was then tasked with submitting a permit application, including a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) checklist under project #SEPA 2023-00085. Friends, in turn, submitted comments during the SEPA process on December 15, 2023, highlighting deficiencies and proposing additional enforceable conditions. 

These conditions aimed to ensure that the Renewable Diesel Infrastructure project did not increase existing vessel traffic or compromise air quality. Additionally, Friends advocated for consultation with affected Tribes to address potential archaeological concerns. 

On December 20, 2023, Friends appealed the Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS). This appeal was supported by numerous comments from environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) and Friends supporters. 

Responding to these concerns, Whatcom County issued a revised MDNS on January 30, 2024. This revision included a condition for vessel monitoring and emphasized the possibility of further SEPA review if the volume of renewable diesel exceeded expectations. 

Furthermore, the county required Phillips 66 to address potential air quality impacts, and the revised MDNS incorporated that analysis, as a result of public comments submitted during the SEPA process.  

Subsequently, on February 8, 2024, Friends and Phillips 66 reached a settlement, both agreeing to abide by the terms of the revised MDNS. The revised MDNS from January 30 remains in effect, including the requirement for vessel monitoring that had been proposed by Friends. 

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Here are the conditions requested in Friends’ comments submitted in the SEPA process on December 15, 2023: 

  1. Explicitly require the Renewable Diesel Infrastructure project to “not increase existing barge or vessel traffic or change the type of vessel traffic already occurring at the facility” as had been stated by Phillips 66. Require the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery to regularly provide publicly accessible documentation showing that the Ferndale Refinery only receives renewable diesel from tank vessels that are subsequently loaded with products refined at the Ferndale Refinery. This could be achieved by requiring the refinery to report to Whatcom County and the public the same Advance Notice of Transfer (ANT) data as is reported to Ecology.   
  1. The SEPA review must address all the project-related air quality impacts, including the impacts from the vessels’ engine emissions at the dock during the time it takes to unload the renewable diesel.  A possible means of mitigating these impacts would be to require project-related vessels at the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery dock to connect to shore power and shut down their auxiliary engines, to reduce air quality impacts from tank vessels’ engines while at the dock.   
  1. Consult with affected Tribes to identify appropriate mitigating conditions for this permit. If deemed appropriate by affected Tribes, include the requirement for thorough documentation that there was no discovery of archaeological resources and/or human skeletal remains during the construction of this project. 

The Friends of the San Juans do such a wonderful job of keeping on top of things like the transit of freighters through the Straits and their impact on whales as well as protecting our environment. Jim and I fell in love with the islands, the wildlife, and fishing. We hope to preserve it, not only for our family but for other families, well into the future.

Glen and Deb Bruels

members, San Juan Island