For a sixth time the Whatcom County Council has extended its moratorium on new fossil fuel facilities at Cherry Point. The Council also agreed to get more legal review of the Jan. 15 proposed changes to the Comp Plan that would basically block future facilities of all fossil fuels.
On Jan. 29, 2019, the Council approved 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 vote to approve was 5-2 with council members Barbara Brenner and Tyler Byrd opposed.
Also approved was a resolution to “to clarify the intent” of its Jan. 15 proposed amendments to the preliminary draft Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code. Those proposed changes would require a Conditional Use Permit for the development of all new fossil fuel facilities at Cherry Point, not just unrefined fossil fuel facilities as the previous Oct. 9 draft spelled out. Council members said staff at Planning and Development Services (PDS) has had difficulty combining the 2-versions, and the decision needs further legal review.
The resolution, which replaces the Jan. 15 instructions, would ask PDS to work with Cascadia Law Group to come up with the new draft of the proposed Comp Plan Update amendments, which would then go to the Planning Commission for further review.
The text of the resolution reads:
“A resolution requesting the County Executive to provide staff resources and funding to allow Cascadia Law Group to complete the contract number 201708008 related to legal ways the County may choose to limit the negative impacts on public safety, transportation, the economy and environment from crude oil, coal, liquefied petroleum gasses and natural gas train shipments from the Cherry Point UGA.”
The resolution written by Councilpersons Browne, Donovan and Sidhu was introduced just 3 hours before the evening Council meeting during the Council’s Special Committee of the Whole meeting . The resolution was not posted online but 100 paper copies were available at the evening meeting.
Council members Byrd and Brenner were clearly upset about the release of the surprise document moments before a vote took place. Council member Brenner said, “they weren’t given enough time to digest the new proposal, and compared the resolution’s writers to dictators.” Council member Sidhu said, “the new resolution would add an extra layer of review.”
The Special Committee of the Whole agreed to postpone voting on the resolution until the evening meeting after the public hearing on the fossil fuel facility moratorium. The vote to approve the resolution was 4-2, Council Members Donovan, Browne, Frazey and Sidhu voting to approve, and Council Members Brenner and Byrd opposed. Councilmember Buchanan was absent.
During the public hearing, Michael Petrish with North Puget Sound Carpenters Local 70 told the council that Cherry Point industries “can protect the environment and provide for the economy.”
Full video of Jan. 29, 2019 Whatcom County Council meeting (video starts around 7:50pm):