Public hearing to focus on unrefined fuel shipments

By Oliver Lazenby

Whatcom County has scheduled a September 27 public hearing on its moratorium on applications for new or expanded facilities for shipping unrefined fuels from Cherry Point, during the council’s regular meeting. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is at council chambers at 311 Grand Avenue, in Bellingham.

The county was required to hold a hearing within 60 days of August 9, when it passed the emergency moratorium. The moratorium allows local refineries to continue refining and exporting oil, but bans applications for new projects that would ship oil without refining it.

The moratorium came about after councilmember Carl Weimer proposed an amendment to ban unrefined oil, coal and natural gas shipments from the Cherry Point urban growth area as part of the county’s 20-year comprehensive
plan update.

County staff is studying the issue and will make a recommendation to council before January 17.

As recently as last year, shipping unrefined oil from the U.S. was illegal. In December 2015, U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama repealed a 40-year ban on unrefined oil exports. Since then, Canada has received the majority of unrefined oil shipments from the U.S.

The cities of Vancouver and Hoqiuam, Washington, both have similar moratoriums in place as a result of oil export projects proposed in those communities.

County council on September 13 also introduced an ordinance that would extend its moratorium by six months. That ordinance could be extended an additional six months if subsequent public hearings are held.

The moratorium doesn’t prohibit the filing or processing of applications for maintenance or repairs that don’t increase capacity for shipping unrefined fossil fuels.

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