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Lawyer Michael Avenatti arrested on a domestic violence charge. Also on the Thursday rundown: More testimony on Ohio's "anti-protest" bill; and we'll take you to the Dakotas to celebrate American Education Week.

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Skagit County Oil Trains Get Indefinite Delay

PHOTO: Some Washingtonians say oil-train disasters such as the one in West Virginia this month, in which 27 of 109 rail cars full of Bakken crude oil derailed, can only be avoided if the trains aren't allowed in the Northwest. Photo courtesy Office of West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
PHOTO: Some Washingtonians say oil-train disasters such as the one in West Virginia this month, in which 27 of 109 rail cars full of Bakken crude oil derailed, can only be avoided if the trains aren't allowed in the Northwest. Photo courtesy Office of West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
February 25, 2015

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - Last weekend's oil train derailments and explosions in West Virginia and Ontario are having reverberations on the Washington coast.

On Monday, the Skagit County Hearing Examiner determined that an expansion plan to allow the Shell oil refinery in northwest Washington to accept crude oil by rail can't move forward without a comprehensive environmental review.

A half-dozen environmental groups had filed the appeal. One of their attorneys, Kristen Boyles with Earthjustice, said images of the fireballs and spills from back East only underscored the concerns already outlined by the groups.

"I think it certainly played a part, and that is just the most recent of a steady drumbeat of fairly horrific accidents," she said. "And these were precisely the impacts that hadn't been looked at."

Shell is asking to build a rail spur from an existing track onto its property to accommodate trains of up to 102 cars of crude oil. Boyles said Shell could appeal the hearing examiner's decision.

Other oil shipment facility plans already are in the environmental review process, including the Tesoro-Savage project on the Columbia River near Vancouver and three proposed oil-shipping terminals in Greys Harbor.

With two oil refineries in the area, Boyles said, it isn't that the residents of Burlington, Mount Vernon or other towns in the region are opposed to having the industry close at hand. But the oil has arrived by water, in tankers from Alaska - not by passing through their downtown areas.

"This would have allowed very long oil trains, probably 100 tank cars per train, to pull into the facility and unload and then leave, which would end up being about 12 to 15 trains per week going through these communities," she said.

On Feb. 16 in Fayette County, W.Va., 27 of 109 oil cars derailed, causing a massive explosion and fire. Two days earlier, in northern Ontario, a derailment caused a 6,000-gallon oil spill and fire. Both still are being investigated.

The decision document is online at earthjustice.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA