Whatcom County Council Continues Its Efforts to Degrade the Cherry Point Industrial Zoning Through Regulatory Fiat

In Cherry Point Industrial Area, News, Whatcom County Council by CTNW News

The Whatcom County Council seems intent on stopping all future fossil fuel jobs at Cherry Point. The latest proposed changes to the county’s zoning rules would create nearly-impossible hurdles for developing new fossil fuel facilities and for expanding existing refineries.

The Council discussed the proposed new amendments to the preliminary draft Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code during a committee meeting Jan. 15, 2019. The last-minute changes would require a conditional use permit for all “new fossil fuel facilities” at Cherry Point, not just unrefined fossil fuel facilities as the previous Oct. 9 draft spelled out. Council members agreed to send a draft showing the new changes to the Planning Commission for further review.

Cherry Point is currently the home of Phillips 66 and BP refineries and is zoned for heavy industrial use. Council member Barbara Brenner said “requiring a conditional use permit is actually pretty much changing the zoning.” Council member Todd Donovan recommended the proposed changes. He said it puts the focus on permitting facilities rather than what types of fossil fuels are allowed.

Link: Jan. 15th, 2019 Special Committee of the Whole audio: Jan. 15th Special Committee of the Whole

Here are the some of the changes:
Policy 2CC-16: The County will, through its adopted SEPA policies and applicable permitting processes, seek to limit the negative impacts on public safety, transportation, the economy, and environment from new fossil fuel facilities, including new or expanded crude oil, coal, liquefied petroleum gases, natural gas, and radioactive substance exports from facilities within the Cherry Point UGA above levels in existence as of March 1, 2017.
The Prosecuting Attorney and/or the County Administration should provide the County Council written notice of all known pre-application correspondence or permit application submittals and notices, federal, state, or local that involve activity with the potential to expand (removed: the export of fossil fuels from Cherry Point) (added) “Fossil Fuel Facilities,” as defined in the Whatcom County Code (currently at WCC 20.97.159.1)Policy 2CC-17: Policy 2CC-16 shall not limit existing operations or maintenance of existing facilities operating at levels as of March 1, 2017.

The Whatcom County Council also introduced another fossil fuel permit moratorium – its 6th moratorium – on new facilities at Cherry Point during their evening meeting Jan. 15, 2019. Council members introduced an ordinance; AB2019-064 “imposing an interim moratorium on the acceptance and processing of applications and permits for new or expanded facilities in the Cherry Point Urban Growth Area, the primary purpose of which would be the shipment of unrefined fossil fuels not to be processed at Cherry Point.” The Council “finds that extending the moratorium is necessary for the protection of public health and safety.”

The ordinance was approved for introduction by a vote of 5-2, with council members Barbara Brenner and Tyler Byrd opposed. The County Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the moratorium on Jan. 29, 2019, where the moratorium is likely to be approved.

This effort to stop future growth at Cherry Point started around 2016 over concerns of accidents involving crude oil trains. The County Council adopted similar interim measures on:

  • September 27, 2016 (AB2016-039: Ordinance imposing an interim moratorium on the acceptance and processing of applications and permits for new or expanded facilities in the Cherry Point urban growth area, the primary purpose of which would be the shipment of unrefined fossil fuels not to be processed at Cherry Point (AB2016-256A) Adopted 6-1, Brenner opposed, Ordinance 2016-039 )
  • March 21, 2017 (AB2017-011: Ordinance imposing an interim moratorium on the acceptance and processing of applications and permits for new or
    expanded facilities in the Cherry Point urban growth area, the primary purpose of which would be the shipment of unrefined fossil fuels not to be processed at Cherry Point (AB2016-256A) Adopted 6-1, Brenner opposed, Ordinance 2016-039)
  • September 26, 2017 (AB2017-049: Ordinance imposing an interim moratorium on the acceptance and processing of applications and permits for new or expanded facilities in the Cherry Point Urban Growth Area, the primary purpose of which would be the shipment of unrefined fossil fuels not to be processed at Cherry Point (AB2016-256C) Adopted 6-1, Brenner opposed, Ordinance 2017-049)
  • February 27, 2018 (AB2018-007: Ordinance imposing an interim moratorium on the acceptance and processing of applications and permits for new or expanded facilities in the Cherry Point Urban Growth Area, the primary purpose of which would be the shipment of unrefined fossil fuels not to be processed at Cherry Point (AB2018-077)
    Adopted 5-2, Brenner and Byrd opposed, Ordinance 2018-007)
  • August 8, 2018 (AB2018-044: Ordinance imposing an interim moratorium on the acceptance and processing of applications and permits for new or
    expanded facilities in the Cherry Point urban growth area, the primary purpose of which would be the shipment of unrefined fossil fuels not to be processed at Cherry Point (AB2018-077B) Adopted 4-2, Brenner and Byrd opposed, Ordinance 2018-044).

These interim measures are intended to halt new development of fossil fuel facilities in the Cherry Point UGA until the council can approve an updated Comp Plan that would basically stop them completely.

Union and non-union workers once again stepped up and urged the council to not extend the moratorium. During open session comments, members of Labor Union Local 292 and Iron Workers Union Local 86 also asked the council to not approve the latest proposed changes to the draft Comp Plan.