By Oliver Lazenby
Whatcom County Council voted to extend its temporary moratorium on applications for exporting unrefined fossil fuels from Cherry Point at its September 27 meeting.
Currently, the refineries at Cherry Point export fuel only after refining it. County council tried to craft the ordinance so that it wouldn’t affect refineries, several council members said at the meeting.
The ordinance passed 6–1, with Barbara Brenner opposing.
“There was a better way to do this,” she said. “It got extremely polarized and I don’t like that.”
County council took up the issue earlier this year, in response to the federal government repealing a 40-year ban on unrefined oil exports last December. It approved a two-month moratorium on August 9.
Council members in favor of the moratorium expressed concerns about public safety issues that would accompany an increase in oil trains rolling through the county. A crude oil train derailed and caught fire in the Columbia River Gorge in June, requiring residents in parts of the town of Mosier, Oregon, to evacuate.
“This is not about redefining the energy future of Whatcom County or us trying to reverse climate change,” said council member Todd Donovan. “Our local authority relates to public health, safety, protecting the environment.”
Before the latest moratorium expires, the county planning commission will make a recommendation on the issue to council.
“In my mind we aren’t doing anything permanent this evening,” said council member Carl Weimer. “This is a holding action to give us time to find out what we can and should do.”