Whatcom County Council finalizes Cherry Point amendments to Comprehensive Plan: Join us to speak out in support

April 26, 2017

Why do we need local action?

Though the Cherry Point coal terminal has been defeated, Cherry Point is on the map to become an export corridor for crude oil, tar sands bitumen, fracked gas and propane.

Faced with proposals from multinational companies seeking to circumvent U.S. law, who may sue the county for rejecting permits and put taxpayers on the hook, Whatcom County urgently needs to make clear policies before new proposals are submitted. Until these policies are finalized, Whatcom County maintains a moratorium on permits for new developments to export unrefined fossil fuel through Cherry Point.

Oil companies lobbied to lift the federal ban on crude oil export. With a drastic rise in oil from North Dakota and Alberta moving to Cherry Point by rail and pipeline, the refineries are positioned to use their shipping piers for exporting crude oil and tar sands. Here’s where we stand:

  • Kinder Morgan will likely seek to expand their Trans Mountain pipeline to Cherry Point.
  • Williams Pipeline has proposed to build a gas pipeline through Cherry Point for export via Vancouver Island.
  • Petrogas has recently begun exporting propane through the Intalco pier, creating a demand for propane bomb trains (which are even more explosive than oil trains) moving through Whatcom County.
  • SSA Marine has stated intentions to build a new shipping pier, which could expand oil export capacity.

Crude oil export will bring simultaneously more bomb trains, more pipelines, and more tanker traffic through the Salish Sea, while undermining job security for local refinery workers.

But we have legal tools to stop crude export through Washington before it begins on a mass scale. The first step is to pass amendments to Whatcom County’s Comprehensive Plan, an important growth management document which sets policies to direct zoning restrictions on permits for land and water use.

View the final Comprehensive Plan amendments for Cherry Point.

What is the “Magnuson Amendment?”

The Magnuson Amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) is a crucial law that prohibits permitting of facilities that would increase crude oil shipments through Puget Sound, if not for consumption in Washington. But this law will not be enforced automatically. Whatcom County must ensure that all permits involving crude oil or bitumen shipments must be reviewed to be lawful under the Magnuson Amendment to the MMPA. Read more about Magnuson here. 

The final Comprehensive Plan amendments for Cherry Point

The final Comprehensive Plan amendments for Cherry Point would:

  • Prevent piecemeal upgrades for oil exports by requiring “Magnuson Amendment” review of all permits that involve handling petroleum.
  • Block any new proposals for shipping piers in the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.
  • Recognize Lummi Nation’s history and treaty-protected fishing rights.
  • Complete a legal study by December 2017 to develop recommendations for legal ways the County may choose to limit the negative impacts from crude oil, coal. liquefied petroleum gases, and natural gas exports. New legislation will likely follow completion of the study.

Speak out in support

With major blowback from BP and others looking to export crude oil, in an election year no less, the County Council must have majority public support to pass these forward-thinking policies! How you can help:

  1. Please email the County Council and ask them to adopt the final amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, and take further action to protect our communities! council@co.whatcom.wa.us 
  2. Join us for the FINAL public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan. This is the final opportunity to speak out before the Council votes. Arrive by 6pm to secure a seat and sign up to speak. Speakers will have up to three minutes to address the Council. The meeting will begin at 7pm in the County Council Chambers, 311 Grand Ave in downtown Bellingham.