Whatcom County to hold town hall on Cherry Point export rules Thursday

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

The Whatcom County Planning Commission will hold a town hall Thursday, Oct. 13, on changes that would impact fossil fuel exports at Cherry Point.

The 6:30 p.m. meeting in the County Council Chambers at 311 Grand Ave. will include a town hall and State Environmental Policy Act public hearing on the proposed amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

In July, Whatcom County Council directed the commission to study amendments to the Cherry Point portion of the land use planning document and give the council a recommendation by mid-January 2017.

The commission will consider three options: changes as proposed by the council, slightly different changes proposed by a single council member, and no changes at all.

In a nutshell, some of the changes could include:

▪  Prohibiting adding any industrial piers at Cherry Point (or, alternatively, prohibit any piers not already approved under the county’s Shoreline Management Program, which provides for a fourth pier for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal)

▪  Adding language about future development and expansions to favor “clean-energy and low-carbon emitting industries,” prohibit additional hardening of the shoreline, strictly avoid estuaries and near-shore wetlands, require archaeological study and design with Lummi Nation, and require any new water-intensive development to use “state-of-the-art water recycling manufacturing technology to minimize water use”

▪  Alternatively, focus on working “cooperatively with all businesses to increase environmental protection as they expand and/or upgrade refining operations at Cherry Point”

▪  Prohibit the county from issuing permits that could conflict with a federal rule that prevents increased crude oil vessel traffic in Puget Sound (by limiting construction of new docks), known as the “Magnuson Amendment”

▪  Take on a study, to be finished by December 2017, of legal ways the county can limit unrefined fossil fuel exports from Cherry Point above levels already in place as of July 2016; propose changes to the Comprehensive Plan based on the study’s results

Information is available in the Planning Commission packet online at co.whatcom.wa.us/552/Planning-Commission.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil