March 24, 2017 Dena Jensen
Here is a transcript of the public comment offered by retired refinery worker Steve Garey, at the March 21, 2017, Whatcom County Public Hearing on “imposing an interim moratorium on the acceptance and processing of applications and permits for new or expanded facilities in the Cherry Point urban growth area the primary purpose of which would be the shipment of unrefined fossil fuels not to be processed at Cherry Point.” The interim ordinance was approved by the Whatcom County Council on the evening of the hearing, by a vote of 6-1, Council Member Brenner opposed.
Mr. Garey’s position offers a contrast to some refinery executive and management spokespersons’, and business advocacy group perspectives on the the permit restrictions.
“I’d like to thank the council for this opportunity to provide comments tonight. My name is Steve Garey. I am a retired refinery worker and former union president. I worked for both Shell and Tesoro for 24 years and represented workers in both of those refineries. I currently work for the Washington State BlueGreen Alliance. I am here tonight to encourage your continued support for prohibiting the export of crude oil from Cherry Point, while allowing the export of finished products from the refineries in order to support production jobs, while also doing our part to protect the environment.
“Our economy is undergoing a transition away from fossil fuels by replacing that energy with clean renewable power from many sources. This transition is going to occur, whether we like it or not. What is not known yet is whether this transition will be just or equitable; whether we can have both jobs and environmental protections at the same time. I believe we can and must protect our environment while also protecting existing jobs as we create even more jobs in a clean energy future.
“This view is shared by the United Steel Workers who represent two-thirds of refinery workers in the Untied States, also by the Washington State Labor Council and also by most of our friends in environmental organizations. We make this transition just, when we recognize and mitigate disproportionate costs. Those costs include the increasing harm done by global warming now, as well as costs to communities like our own, where families and local economies are currently dependent on the fossil fuel industry.
“We protect the Salish Sea when we prohibit crude oil export, while also doing our part to reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. At the same time, no crude oil export also protects refinery production workers by preventing one of the options we’ve seen refiners choose when their markets are reduced, or when too much refinery capacity exists. In response to those conditions we’ve seen refiners shut the production units down, turn facilities into export terminals, this puts those employees in the unemployment line while extending our dependence on fossil fuels and the environmental risks that entails.
“Your continued support for prohibiting crude oil exports while allowing the refiners to export finished products encourages a just transition. This action supports protection for both the environment and existing jobs, while we create even more jobs in a transition in the energy economy. Your continued support I think, represents the greatest good for the greatest number, and speaks directly to those who would double down on the fossil fuel economy, irregardless of the consequences. Your support represents an important truth about the economic and environmental challenges we face if the transition is to be just. It will be our responsibility to make it so. Thank you for your leadership.”