Whatcom County Executive Weighs in on Council’s Bait & Switch

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

Last week the Whatcom County Council voted to move forward with a proposal for review by the Whatcom County Planning Commission which would dramatically change the operations and safety of Cherry Point Industries. Due to the actions taken by Councilmember Todd Donovan and the help of members from Stand.earth, RE Sources, and an environmental attorney; the Council proposed to move forward with changes that would require costly and timely changes to projects having anything to do with fossil fuels at Cherry Point. Cherry Point industries regularly go through maintenance projects which are required for maintenance and the continued safety of their operations. If this ordinance were to be approved it would likely damage beyond repair the ability for these industries to continue operations in Whatcom County.


From: Jack Louws
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2019 3:57 PM
To: Council
Cc: Tyler Schroeder; Mark Personius; Karen Frakes (kfrakes@co.whatcom.wa.us)
Subject: Cherry Point January 15th proposal


I have had the opportunity to review the content of the January 15, 2019 Cherry Point Comprehensive Plan proposal, and I encourage the Council to take a step back and reconsider moving this version forward for Planning Commission review.

Components of the Cherry Point Interim Moratorium, to be considered for another extension at the January 29th Council meeting, seeks to limit the exporting of unrefined fossil fuels, recognizes the substantial local employment at Cherry Point, and underscores the job loss if refineries are converted from refiners to exporters. The original emergency ordinance, adopted on August 9, 2016, was to place a moratorium on accepting permits “whose purpose is to facilitate the increased shipment of unrefined fossil fuels not to be processed or consumed at Cherry Point…”

I have heard many of you articulate the position in response to the public’s concern related to the interim ordinances and potential new comprehensive plan changes “that in no way it was your intent to restrict the business viability of the existing operations at Cherry Point, only to prevent future exporting” (my generalization of what I’ve heard).  

The January 15, 2019 document, if adopted into law, would have a significant impact on operations of our existing industries at Cherry Point. In practice, this proposal (if lawful, which I would challenge) would deal what I would consider a knockout punch to future capital repair and maintenance projects at the refineries, notwithstanding any consideration of major renovation projects. The document includes language requiring a Conditional Use Permits and corresponding EIS on all “fossil fuel facilities” and “accessory uses” in the Cherry Point area. Yes, there is an allowance for an exemption to this process, however, as currently written that exemption cannot be granted to the existing industries because they are located in the Heavy Impact Industrial (HII) zone and in the Cherry Point Industrial (CP) area.  This proposed code revision, along with many others imbedded within the document, means that projects from parking lots to major equipment replacements will add months if not years to permit timelines, along with adding substantial cost and uncertainty for the applicant.

Although I also have serious concerns related to the October 9th proposal, with additional refinement by the Council, I believe it is a better starting point for the Planning Commission’s consideration than allowing for consideration of the January 15th proposal, as it is in my opinion a true job killer. The October 9th plan would more closely align with the public comments I have heard from many Councilmembers in the past months and will likely be a better starting point for the continued public participation at the Planning Commission.

Thank you for consideration of my comments and proposed actions. I wish you well as you continue to discuss this important issue.


Jack Louws
County Executive
Whatcom County Courthouse
311 Grand Avenue, Suite 108
Bellingham, WA 98225
Ph:  360 778 5200


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