- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

HOQUIAM, Wash. (AP) - The new owner of a Grays Harbor biodiesel facility has dropped plans to handle crude oil as it pursues an expansion project at the Port of Grays Harbor on Washington’s coast.

Iowa-based biofuel producer Renewable Energy Group wants to expand its existing facility to handle bulk liquids, but it said crude oil won’t be in its future plans, according to written comments it made to state and local regulators last year.

The project was one of three crude oil terminals proposed at the Port of Grays Harbor that would bring crude oil by train from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, where it would be stored and loaded onto tankers or barges.

“We at REG are happy to be producing lower carbon, renewable fuel at Grays Harbor and look forward to building relationships with all local and regional stakeholders,” company spokesman Anthony Hulen said in an email Wednesday.

REG acquired Imperium Renewables and its biodiesel refinery last summer as local and state regulators were preparing an environmental review of an expansion project that could store up to 1.1 million barrels of crude oil and other liquids on site. The current facility handles biodiesel, petroleum diesel, vegetable oil and methanol. The expanded facility would handle new liquids including ethanol, gasoline, jet fuel, used cooking oil and animal fat.

The company said it expected that removing crude oil from the project would reduce and simplify the environmental review.

A Department of Ecology spokesman said the agency is waiting for an updated proposal from REG.

Opponents of the proposed crude oil terminal on Wednesday cheered the company’s decision.

The decision affirms that “the company took to heart the concerns of thousands of people who spoke out about the dangers of crude oil storage and transport to our communities and waterways,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation.

Westway Terminal Co. has also proposed expanding its methanol facility to store up to 1.4 million barrels of crude oil at the Port of Grays Harbor. Another project, Grays Harbor Rail Terminal, is also proposed at the deep water port.

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