Bait and Switch – Whatcom County Committee of the Whole, January 15, 2019

In Cherry Point Industrial Area, News by commonnw

Brief History of Cherry Point Fossil Fuel Moratorium

After Congress lifted the U.S. crude oil export ban in December 2015. The Whatcom Council

County Council passed its first fossil fuel permit moratorium for Cherry Point companies. The Council will vote on its 6th fossil fuel moratorium on Tuesday, January 29, 2019.

Early last year the Whatcom County Council received legal guidance from the Cascade Law Group that laid out a strategy on how the Council could implement a permanent version of the Cherry Point Fossil Fuel Moratorium. Based on that legal advice the Council passed Resolution 2018-015. Then the Council started a process to implement Resolution 2018-015 by discussing and then voting on individual text changes to the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan. The last changes where voted in on October 9th. Their last meeting of the year was December 4, 2018.

The moratorium and Resolution 2018-015 have caused great concern because it will result in the loss of high paying family wage jobs in Whatcom.

The Council is now pursuing an even more damaging change! See below.

Whatcom County Council COTW meeting January 15, 2019

It appears that sometime in December, Councilman Donovan (as he stated in the COTW meeting) worked with Alex Ramel, Extreme Oil Field Director for STAND.earth; Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program Manager forRE Sources and Tom Ehrlichman, Environmental Attorney withSalish Law, to draft even more expansive changes to impact the Cherry Point fossil fuel facilities. These changes expand conditional use permits for all fossil fuel facilities – refined and unrefined and expand SEPA and GHG analysis (see blog for more details).

When the Whatcom County Council came back from their winter break the Council was supposed to pick up where it left off on October 9, 2018. However, Councilmember Donovan appears to have submitted a document to Councilmembers that included the October 9th changes in addition to his changes as a single document for the Council to approve and forward to the Whatcom County Planning Commission. It is unclear whether other Councilmembers where complicit, but it is clear that at some of the Councilmembers were unaware of the changes that Donovan brought to the table.

During their COTW meeting these changes drafted by Donovan and outside entities caused confusion to some on the Council; so Councilmember Donovan explained that the changes to the Comp Plan where taking too long and is why he enlisted the help of STAND.earth and RE Sources to help rewrite and expand the language within the original document from October 9th.

Councilmember Sidhu, in support of Councilmember Donovan, expressed his support for these changes; that it would be better to push through Comp Plan language that the Council had not read, or discussed, so they speed up the process and not waste-time to develop and understand the significant changes proposed by Donavan, et.al.

Councilmembers Byrd and Brenner protested the murky and sneaky process of inserting these significant changes ‘and’ pressing to push it forward without full disclosure and discussion by the full council.

Councilmember Donavan made a motion to forward both his changes and the Council’s October 9th to the Planning Commission. This motion passed 4-2 with Council President Rud Browne abstaining.

Councilmember Byrd summed of the situation well. Byrd pointed out that so far the Council has been ”… discussing this topic working through it in open public session in front of everybody on live recordings justifying every decision on a decision-by-decision basis and to have that very open public process and then go on to a winter break and to come back with an entirely new document written by a number of people; some we know some we don’t know and to ask this group [the Council] to approve that document with the suggestion that we shouldn’t actually review each of the details that we should just send it forward just to expedite the process; to me that is essentially the equivalent of a bait and switch, it’s a used car salesman approach. It’s coming out here and giving everyone here a thought that they get to participate in the process, that they get transparency and to understand what is going on. And behind the scenes saying, I am doing what I really want to do and at the last minute I am going to shove my document in there and force it through without discussion, but don’t worry we’ll have transparency on the backend when it comes back to us [from the Planning Commission], because you know we had it on the front end, right? I think that fundamentally is flawed…I think it is wrong.”

A final comment on Council President, Rud Browne, it is unclear what he knew prior to this meeting. He made statements about having some problems with Councilmember Donovan’s changes and he seemed a little unnerved by the way Donovan had high-jacked the process. Just on the process issue alone Browne should have showed leadership and voted no (instead of abstaining) to make the point that high-jacking the process the way Donovan did is a violation of the public trust and not the transparency the public wants and deserves. All of this and the vote took place at their COTW afternoon meeting. At the Council’s evening meeting they introduced an ordinance for a 6th Cherry Point fossil fuel moratorium. However, in open public comment union members who had attend the afternoon meeting expressed their outrage to the Council. Many others testified not to renew the moratorium.

All who support Cherry Point jobs can help by voicing their objection to this shameful behavior by the Whatcom County Council on Tuesday January 29 at 7pm. There will be public comment period due to the Council vote on the 6th Cherry Point fossil Fuel moratorium.