Citizen Journalism Report: Whatcom County Council Meeting Apr. 10, 2018

In Cherry Point Industrial Area, Common Voices, Information Sources, Local Government, News, Wake Up Whatcom, Whatcom County Council by commonnw

Last Tuesday, April 10th, 2017, Whatcom County Council addressed and acquiesced to taking public comments on the contentious moratorium placed on Cherry Point Industrial businesses back in September of 2016. This report on the meeting has been provided for public released to CTNW for our Citizen Journalism reporting, courtesy of the Whatcom Business Alliance.

Temporary, Cherry Point Moratorium Could Remain in Place until 2019

The Whatcom County Council might keep the Cherry Point temporary moratorium in place for another 12 months—or more—as it grapples with coming up with permanent rules that could have a major impact on businesses in the Heavy Industrial area. Such a delay could keep the contentious issue front and center during critical County Council elections in 2019.

The temporary ban on shipping “unrefined” fossil fuels and expansion of facilities has already been in place for 18 months.

At a special Committee of the Whole meeting yesterday afternoon, County Councilmember Todd Donovan presented a draft proposal aimed at satisfying potential Constitutional and other legal questions.

Councilmember Todd Donovan

While still in rough form, Donovan said his ideas would not explicitly mention a ban on fossil fuel exports per se, even though it could accomplish the same thing.  Donovan said his plan focuses on four points:

  • Requiring conditional use permits for certain uses
  • Review State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) policy to provide a basis for permit denial when public health safety and environmental impacts cannot be mitigated
  • Coming up with provisions when there’s a change of use or occupancy
  • Major Project Permits would involve tanker traffic impacts and environmental impacts, and potentially requiring bond and insurance

“I’m trying to find…the things that will address the public health and safety impacts associated with more transit of crude oil and potentially other stuff going through here,” Donovan said, adding that the proposed language would make new regulations fall within the scope of local government oversight.

The Council’s original plan had been to submit guidance to Cascadia Law Group to have their attorneys come up with the language. But, Donovan suggested that the County Council craft the proposed changes itself, based on Cascadia’s recommendations, then have staff work on a permanent ordinance for a Council vote.

Although the issue has been in the forefront since September, 2016, and has been subject to many public hearings, Councilmember Satpal Sidhu said he now would like to hear from Cherry Point Industries and the public in drafting a new resolution. “We have reached a position now where I would like to say to the industry and people who are affected by this to come forward and make their comments, and the public also,” Sidhu said.  But Cherry Point industries and workers have already testified for hours that a permanent ban could put them out of business and potentially eliminate thousands of jobs.  Hundreds of pages of letters and legal briefs have also been submitted.

Audience members attending the meeting waited hours for it to begin, and Councilmember Barbara Brenner asked **Chair Rud Browne nine times to let people comment.

Browne said no, that his decision was that the public would have to come back in the evening.  With the support of colleague, Councilmember Tyler Byrd, Brenner continued to hammer the point and Browne eventually yielded under her pressure. Citizens were allowed to comment for 18 minutes.
The Council took no action. The issue will likely come up at their next meeting on April 24.

**CTNW editorial comment: Councilmember Rud Browne has declared his candidacy to run for the 40th district State Senate seat being vacated by current Rep. Kristine Lytton, in the 2018 General Election.