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Sumner evaluates Northstar project

With the deadline for public comment on a proposed chemical-storage facility in Sumner past, the city and its citizens take the next step in the State Environmental Policy Act process.

A team of consultants from ESA Adolfson, a firm hired by the city, will assess the written comments submitted by citizens regarding the proposed Northstar chemical-storage site.

ESA Adolfson’s consultants are tasked with examining the possible environmental impacts of the project and the need and effectiveness of mitigation measures.

The Department of Ecology sets guidelines for allowing projects which state:

“To deny a proposal under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), an agency must find that:

1. The proposal would be likely to result in a significant adverse environmental impact identified in a final EIS or final supplemental EIS; and

2. Reasonable mitigation measures are not sufficient to mitigate the identified impact to a non-significant level.”

Sumner could require mitigation measures for a determined impact, but under SEPA rules must first consider whether local, state, or federal regulations and enforcement mitigate the impacts.

Many citizens opposed to the facility cite the possibility of a lahar or an earthquake as reasons not to allow the facility, but simply stating a probability of such a natural disaster does not satisfy the legal definition.

Sumner City Attorney Brett Vinson said if the matter reaches the courts, the result will hinge on an interpretation of the law.

“The decision truly as it meets that standard would be up to a judge,” he said.

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