Global oil consumption dropped to the lowest levels seen in 25 years amid the pandemic — yet we’ve seen no reduction in dangerous crude oil shipments through northwest Washington. Surplus oil is sitting on “floating storage” vessels. At a moment when there’s more immediate pressure than ever to expand these risky shipments, several Whatcom County Councilmembers are pushing to remove our key local protection: a moratorium on increased pass-through shipments of unrefined fossil fuels via terminals at Cherry Point.
The moratorium has been place since 2016 — keeping our communities, the Salish Sea and our climate safer from dangerous projects that offer no local benefit, while people in Whatcom County foot the risks. The Council must now vote to extend or expire protections at their June 2nd virtual meeting, after a 6pm online public hearing.
Abandoning the moratorium on fossil fuel expansion and new protections now would be like opening the floodgates at the height of a storm surge.
Background: How Whatcom can lead the way and improve outdated rules for the fossil fuel industry
In 2017 — one year after the would-be largest North American coal export terminal at Cherry Point was soundly defeated — the Whatcom County Council passed forward-thinking policies seeking to limit the health and safety impacts on local residents and our environment that would undoubtedly come with increasing hazardous shipments of crude oil, tar sands, gas and coal through Cherry Point.
For three years since, RE Sources, ally organizations and local communities have been a key part in the public process of making those policies into real changes to the county’s legal code — rules governing how we allow, deny or condition development proposed at Whatcom’s existing oil refineries and shipping terminals. Learn more about the changes needed here.
To prevent risky expansion projects from slipping through the cracks while working on these code amendments, the County has maintained a moratorium temporarily barring certain permits for transshipment facilities that would increase pass-through shipments of unrefined fossil fuels (i.e. crude oil from a train onto a tanker without any processing).
There are minimal benefits, but significant safety, environmental and economic risks in allowing more oil trains through our towns to load crude oil onto vessels traversing the Salish Sea.
The moratorium is revisited for renewal every six months until the County Council passes new code amendments into law. It has continued for longer than we ever anticipated, and now the COVID crisis has halted the public process. So once again, we’re asking the County Council to vote Yes on this stopgap measure, and to pass the final Cherry Point code amendments within six months.