Cherry Point Land Use

Protecting Xwe’chi’eXen and nearby communities from the impacts of the fossil fuel industry.

Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point) has been a part of Lummi Nation’s ancestral land and waters since time immemorial. It was — and is — vital habitat for salmon, herring (a vital food for salmon), and other species that Tribal and commercial fisheries need to exist. The Cherry Point industrial zone hosts two oil refineries, an aluminum smelter, and three marine transshipment terminals.

The Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve is one of eight designated habitat areas in Washington vital to the survival of the Salish Sea ecosystem.

Cherry Point has been a targeted route for increased exports of crude oil, tar sands, and fracked gas for decades. Lummi Nation and our community blocked the would-be largest coal export terminal in North America in 2016. Now, we have a chance to protect this special place while investing in good-paying jobs that reduce pollution and move us towards a clean energy future. 

The home stretch for strengthening standards on polluting industries

Oil companies have largely gotten a free pass in Whatcom County for over 60 years, getting major permits for polluting projects approved with inadequate environmental review — putting our communities and waterways at risk of dangerous oil spills and train explosions. After years of public pressure, the County Council is considering amendments to existing law that would raise standards for fossil fuel projects in the Cherry Point industrial zone. It’s time Whatcom County started embracing its right and duty to protect public safety and the environment by setting reasonable standards for industry at Cherry Point — and it’s critical for the community (you!) to get involved! Receive updates and ways to take action from our e-newsletters.

On August 7th, 2019, the Whatcom County Council initiated a public review process for a set of draft code amendments that would hold industries accountable for pollution and protect the air, water, and communities around Cherry Point’s fossil fuel industries. After eleven work sessions revising draft code amendments, the Whatcom Planning Commission is holding one final, online public hearing on the land-use code amendments restricting fossil fuel industrial permitting in the Cherry Point zone on Thursday, August 13th, 2020.

  • In 2013, Whatcom County determined that the impacts of two oil train terminals were non-significant and permitted them without reviewing the impacts — despite the major risks posed by crude oil trains that have exploded twelve times in the US and Canada since,
  • Current laws are vulnerable to loopholes and gray areas that oil companies could exploit to sue Whatcom County for rejecting permits with unmitigable negative impacts to our communities,
  • One oil spill could cause irrevocable damage to already endangered fisheries that are the foundation of the livelihoods and economy of families who have relied on fishing since time immemorial,
  • Cherry Point is a targeted route for increased tar sands, oil, and gas shipment from Canada.

These code amendments will limit industrial development in several important ways:

  • Prohibit new fossil fuel transshipment facilities, coal plants, and piers.
  • Conditionally permit expansions of existing refineries and terminals
  • Update environmental review standards for new projects at existing industries

Read about the history of industries at Cherry Point.

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Get in touch with our team!

Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program Manager
Phone: (360) 733-8307 ext. 215
Email: EddyU@re-sources.org

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Background

In 2016, Lummi Nation and our community blocked the would-be largest coal export terminal in North America, after the U.S Army Corps of Engineers recognized the terminal would violate Lummi Nation’s treaty fishing rights. Soon after, Whatcom County Council imposed a temporary moratorium preventing new fossil fuel transshipment infrastructure at Cherry Point, until the county could create legal protections for people and the environment from impacts of fossil fuel projects. After a four-year process and multiple extensions of the temporary moratorium, the council has finally presented a set of draft amendments with those legal protections, and aims to pass a final version of them in early 2020.

Interested in science studying the health of Cherry Point? Check out presentations on our YouTube channel from our annual Cherry Point Science Forum.