BPsettles Cherry Point lawsuit

Published on Thu, Jun 1, 2006 by ack Kintner

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BP settles Cherry Point lawsuit

By Jack Kintner

A lawsuit that environmentalists began six years ago over an extension to BP-Cherry Point refinery’s deep water pier settled out of court last week, and both sides expressed satisfaction with the negotiated outcome.

The refinery gets to continue to use its new loading platform, or pier, while agreeing to fund a $1 million study of oil risks and vessel traffic safety that will be incorporated into an environmental review to be conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers that, if it’s found in violation of the law as environmentalists have contended, will result in their being denied use of the pier again.

The quarter-mile Y-shaped pier was expanded in 2001 by adding a second loading platform, one arm of the Y, to accommodate increased tanker traffic to meet increased demand. The issue was whether or not the addition was constructed with adequate permits. It was first approved when the pier was built in 1971 but was never completed. Since then, the Magnuson amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibited new construction that would add to the refinery’s capacity to offload crude oil. When the Army Corps of Engineers approved it anyway, environmentalists sued and after an initial defeat were upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Last year BP-Cherry Point president Ross Pillari said that unless Magnuson’s restrictions were repealed and they were allowed to use the new platform, the refinery might have to cut production.

The settlement allows the refinery to use the new pier until the pending study by the Army Corps of Engineers is complete, something that was to have begun last year but that as of this week has not been started due to manpower shortages. BP-Cherry Point spokesman Bill Kidd said being able to use their pier is better than continuing the lawsuit. “I’m not saying we’re happy, but it’s worth it for us to trade certainty for an unknown outcome.”