Should Whatcom County ban crude oil exports?

Oil trains on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2014 at the BP Cherry Point Refinery rail loop.
Oil trains on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2014 at the BP Cherry Point Refinery rail loop. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

People can give Whatcom County officials their thoughts during two public hearings Tuesday, Sept. 27, on a temporary policy to not allow new applications or permits for unrefined fossil fuel shipments through Cherry Point.

The Whatcom County Council will take input on a 60-day emergency moratorium on applications and permits for expanded shipment of unrefined fossil fuels that was passed on Aug. 9, as well as on an interim moratorium that would extend the policy another six months.

The interim measure would not apply to:

▪ Applications that were filed or completed before the ordinance takes effect.

▪ Remodels, maintenance or repairs to existing structures so long as they wouldn’t increase capacity for shipping unrefined fuels out of Cherry Point.

▪ To any application necessary to protect health and safety of the community.

Two public hearings are scheduled at the beginning of the 7 p.m. meeting in council chambers at the Whatcom County Courthouse, 311 Grand Ave.

The council unanimously passed the original emergency moratorium to address concerns about potential public health and safety risks that could come with the increased transportation of unrefined fossil fuels, such as crude oil traveling by rail through the county to two refineries at Cherry Point.

In December 2015 Congress lifted a 40-year ban on exporting domestic crude oil to other countries. That created a concern for some that local refineries could shift to shipping unrefined materials abroad, eliminating local refinery jobs.

The moratorium does not impact the current refining and shipment of products through the BP Cherry Point and Phillips 66 refineries.

In July, the council directed the Planning Commission to study changes to the county’s 20-year Comprehensive Plan that could prevent any future export of unrefined fossil fuels from Cherry Point.

The council gave the commission until January to take testimony, study the issue, and make a recommendation on whether the changes should be made.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil