Federal government blocks BP Cherry Point north wing, limits crude oil volume


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will require BP to limit the volume of crude oil handled at its Cherry Point terminal to 191 million barrels per year and prohibit handling crude oil at its north wing dock unless authorized.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will modify its 1996 permit to comply with the Magnuson Amendment’s restrictions regarding the handling of crude oil at Puget Sound facilities, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other legal requirements, according to a January 23 Corps press release. The Corps are also requiring BP to report the number of vessel calls and the volume of crude oil handled at the terminal each year to ensure compliance.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Andrew Muñoz said BP will be required to report its vessel calls and crude oil volume annually.

“That is really the only way [the Corps] can ensure that the ESA and Magnuson Amendment restrictions are being followed,” Muñoz said.

In 1996, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a permit to add a north wing to the already operational south wing of the Cherry Point dock, originally built for ARCO in 1971. BP purchased ARCO in 2000, and construction on the north wing finished in 2001. But several environmental groups sued the Corps and BP, asking for an environment impact statement (EIS). 

Environmental groups expected shipping traffic to increase if the north wing was deemed usable, so they filed suit.

The groups found the originally approved permit potentially violated the Magnuson Amendment, enacted to the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1977, which limits crude oil vessels in Puget Sound waters. The amendment prohibits federal agencies from granting permits that could “result in any increase in the volume of crude oil capable of being handled at any such facility, other than oil to be refined for consumption in the State of Washington.” The benchmark for oil volume was set October 18, 1977 at 191 million barrels per year. 

The EIS, detailing the incremental environmental risk of operating the north wing of the BP Cherry Point terminal, was released August 12, 2022, and the Corps awaited consultations with local tribes and the Department of Justice before coming to a decision whether to modify the permit.

At that time, EIS project manager Daniel Krenz said the decision would come down to three possibilities. Either the Corps would leave the permit as is, revoke the existing permit or propose changes to modify it. Ultimately deciding to make changes, the Corps has brought the permit into compliance with the Magnuson Amendment.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Corps to complete an EIS in 2005, after environmental group Ocean Advocates appealed when the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled in favor of the Corps. 

After conducting two long-term vessel studies a draft EIS was released in 2014 for public review. Then, following ESA consultations with NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the final EIS was released in 2022. It’s available at bit.ly/3Dh7sjJ.


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