Whatcom County poised to pass groundbreaking rules for fossil fuels at Cherry Point

Thank the Whatcom County Council for a thorough stakeholder process. | May 12, 2021

Thank the Council

After years of community effort and engaging multiple stakeholders in hours of public meetings, Whatcom County is one important step closer to passing groundbreaking changes to the land use code that governs heavy-impact industries, especially oil refineries, at Cherry Point. This area is also known as Xwe’chi’eXen, part of Lummi Nation’s traditional land and waters since time immemorial.

Whatcom will likely be the first county in the western United States to prohibit new fossil fuel transshipment facilities, coal plants, piers and wharves in its biggest industrial zone, as well as pass several other measures to protect public health and the environment (see below). This work builds on the successful campaign to prohibit the construction of what would have been the largest coal export terminal in North America in 2016. RE Sources and supporters were central to that campaign, following the leadership of Lummi Nation in protecting the region. The work now aims to hold the line on fossil fuel expansion by ensuring long-term protections through the Whatcom County Council enacting new legal code amendments.

For the past year, RE Sources has been part of a stakeholder group with labor and industry representatives, focused on supporting the Whatcom County Council to advance code changes for Cherry Point. As part of this process, RE Sources and ally organizations have advocated for limiting the impacts of fossil fuel industries in our backyard, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting investment in our local economy.

The Whatcom County Council’s most recent action on Cherry Point was April 20th, when they voted to have Cascadia Law Group carry out a legal review of new, draft code amendments. In the coming weeks, once the review is complete and any outstanding issues resolved, the Council plans to introduce the code amendments, seek public input and discussion and even consider possible further changes. The Council will move to a vote as early as this summer (stay tuned!). We are very hopeful they will pass these amendments, improving the process for considering and permitting new projects at Cherry Point’s existing heavy industries.

In addition, the amendments would allow for conditional permit expansions of existing refineries and terminals. They would update environmental review standards for new projects at existing industries to provide better, clearer rules for all involved.

We believe Whatcom County can serve as a model that other communities can build on as they address existing fossil fuel operations and build towards a renewable energy transition. Places like Tacoma and Vancouver, Washington are currently working towards similar safeguards around fossil fuel infrastructure and initiatives to protect human health and safety, local environments and the climate.

Thank you for being part of this regional movement towards a renewable energy future. We know it has been a long journey for those of you who’ve stood with us since the coal terminal threat a decade ago. Rallying to fend off imminent threats is critical work, and so is the more methodical work to develop lasting protections for our environment and our people. We’re grateful for supporters like you, both new and longtime, who helped our community get here. Read more background on the efforts to protect Cherry Point.

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