In a surprise move, after approving the comp.[Whatcom County Comprehensive] plan, the [Whatcom] county council introduced and passed an emergency moratorium on the acceptance and processing of applications and permits for new and expanded facilities in the Cherry Point UGA area, the primary purpose of which would be the shipment of unrefined fossil fuels not to be processed at Cherry Point.
The well-reasoned and well-drafted emergency ordinance referenced the hundreds of letters from the public requesting the same; the danger and the accidents that have occurred with Bakken crude, the U.S. ban on export of crude oil that was recently lifted; increased ability at the refineries due to new railroad infrastructure; pipeline facilities that are increasing capacity to move crude oil and natural gas to Cherry Point, and the aquatic reserve designated at Cherry Point that needs greater environmental protection.
The council found that this created a public health and safety emergency because there will be increased transport of dangerous fuels throughout the county, with increased risk of possible derailment, spills, explosions, and fall-out.
The ordinance was made immediately effective to prevent development applications from vesting under current law. Left unstated was the risk created by the administration’s efforts to undermine council’s previous efforts to make changes to the Cherry Point UGA while surreptitiously working with SSA to keep the GPT permit open and viable despite a denial of its permit application by DNR [Department of Natural Resources] and USACE [United States Army Corps of Engineers].
That explained the unusual requirement that vesting apply only to applications filed and complete prior to the effective date of the moratorium. Normally, in Whatcom County, applications filed, but not yet complete will be treated as vested if they eventually become complete. With the denial of the DNR and USACE, the current SSA application will never vest as long as the moratorium remains in place.
But do not count on this being the end of GPT. The administration is refusing to answer questions or to be transparent in its dealings with SSA and has indicated that it believes the 1993 applications from the 1999 settlement are still vested and viable. This definitely limits SSA’s options, however, and for that, we are all indebted to the county council.
My favorite part of this moratorium is the council’s refusal to be manipulated and controlled by the executive’s political agenda, and that is the way it should be.