Monday, May 9, 2016, was an historic day – for every community throughout the Pacific Northwest. After years of effort, the Lummi Nation prevailed, their treaty rights were upheld and the federal permits for the Gateway Pacific coal terminal were denied. This decision was a testament to the power and leadership of the Lummi Nation, and we as a community owe them our deepest gratitude.
As we reflect on this win, and offer thanks to the Lummi Nation, we should also recognize the dedication of community members like you. It was almost exactly five years ago — on May 12, 2011 — that RE Sources for Sustainable Communities gathered over 1,000 people on the Fairhaven Village Green for our community’s first rally against Big Coal. At that time, few even knew that SSA Marine was proposing to build the nation’s largest coal export facility in our backyard. And, years ago, when we began our fight, many of us thought winning was a nearly impossible task.
The County Council needs to hear that we don’t want business as usual for the next 20 years and the Comprehensive Plan needs to strive for a more sustainable future at Cherry Point.
But we did it. We won. Thanks to the Lummi Nation, the miles of trains that were predicted to roll through our communities daily will never come. The dirty coal piles that would have been stacked on the shores of Cherry Point will not smother the wetlands. The thousands of marine vessels that would have snaked through the San Juan Islands will never threaten the Salish Sea with spills or accidents. And the marine life that relies on the already threatened Cherry Point herring will not be impacted by another pier.
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Thousands of concerned families, health professionals, business leaders, tribal members and elected officials have helped along the way. Together, we spent countless hours in community meetings and public hearings, submitting an unprecedented number of comments during the project’s scoping period. We made connections across diverse groups — often gathering together for the first time — with a shared vision for the future of our county.
Together, we galvanized a community force that showed it would not back down from the powerful demands of the fossil fuel industry. Right now, that force is inspiring those around the nation who are fighting battles in their own communities. And that force — the one we built — is ours to keep. We will continue to use the knowledge, strategy and connections we worked so hard to build because frankly, we will need them.
There are more proposals on the horizon, headed straight for Whatcom County. With the recent lifting of the federal ban on crude oil exports, Cherry Point has been identified as a key off-ramp for not just coal, but explosive crude oil and liquefied natural gas. And what many people don’t know is that current Comprehensive Plan and development regulations allow these kind of dirty, polluting industries at Cherry Point. The County Council needs to hear that we don’t want business as usual for the next 20 years and the Comprehensive Plan needs to strive for a more sustainable future at Cherry Point.
Just imagine, if we get the Comprehensive Plan right, our community can refocus our energy and resources away from the fuels and industries of the past and look toward the future. We can use that force we’ve built to create the future we want to see: streams full of salmon because the water they live in is clean and plentiful; no toxins in our stormwater so the Salish Sea can support herring, salmon and orca; clean, locally-produced energy; a thriving economy with industries that don’t leave messes for our grandchildren to clean up; burgeoning local agriculture and a prosperous fish and shellfish industry that provides food for our region; healthy schools where our children learn wise stewardship; engaged citizens, and local government care-taking the ecosystems that support our existence.
I am hopeful and excited to create this vision together. And I’m equally excited to celebrate this big step in the right direction. Please join RE Sources for a community gathering from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, June 10, at the Fairhaven Village Green, where we will celebrate this historic win together with community members and friends from across Whatcom County.
Crina Hoyer is executive director of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, a Bellingham nonprofit that promotes sustainable communities and seeks to protect the health of northwestern Washington people and ecosystems through science, education and advocacy. RE Sources is a founding member of Power Past Coal and Stand Up To Oil, two coalitions working to stop coal and oil export off the West Coast. Learn more at re-sources.org.
What: Free party with music by the Legendary Chucklenuts; beer garden by Boundary Bay; group photo at 7:30 p.m.
When: 6-9 p.m., June 10
Where: Fairhaven Village Green