March 29, 2017 Dena Jensen
Last week Whatcom County Council voted 6-1, Council Member Brenner opposed, to approve the “ordinance 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.” I wanted to write this week to thank them for approving the moratorium. Meanwhile, I have been listening to audio recordings (which you can find on the agenda page for the County Council) of most of the Whatcom County Council’s Special Committee of the Whole work sessions regarding the Cherry Point Amendments since the Whatcom County Planning Commission sent their Recommended Cherry Point Amendments in January, for further review by the Council. I decided it would also be good, based on some of the conversations I had heard them have in those work sessions, to thank them for a few other efforts they are making and that I hope they continue to make to protect and preserve the health and safety of our community and the land, air, water and life forms in and around Cherry Point.
Dear Whatcom County Council:
Thank you for voting to approve the interim moratorium on accepting or processing applications for unrefined fossil fuel export projects at Cherry Point. I appreciate your efforts to carefully consider and evaluate possible ways to safeguard the health and safety of our county and of the area specific to Cherry Point.
I also appreciate your defining what you mean by unrefined fossil fuels in the ordinance for the interim moratorium, and for including the various materials that you did in that definition. I feel it is important and completely appropriate that natural gas is included in that definition. I have done some searching and even though it seems there are not many sources who venture to provide any type of definition of unrefined fossil fuels, I have found that there is at least this energy-related company, Trade Energy Futures, that certainly does identify it as such, http://tradeenergies.com/unrefined.html. Their definition occurs in the first paragraph of the linked page: “In this section we cover crude oil and natural gas. Crude oil and natural gas are both unrefined fossil fuels straight from the ground.”
I think it is very important to evaluate the hazards and negative impacts associated with natural gas as related to Cherry Point. Not only are there the possibly devastating impacts that come from methane leaks in LNG pipelines (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/us/study-finds-methane-leaks-negate-climate-benefits-of-natural-gas.html?_r=2), but also the extraction of natural gas by means of fracking is rapidly increasing. From a December 2010 article in Popular Mechanics by Elizabeth Svoboda: “ICF Consulting, a Virginia-based energy and environmental consulting firm, projects that unconventional natural gas extraction methods, including fracking, will increase from 42 percent of U.S. gas production in 2007 to 64 percent in 2020.” So even though natural gas is a less expensive and easier to deal with alternative to other fossil fuels (like coal) for energy companies, one of the reasons for its affordability and availability currently, is a process that is very dangerous and damaging to our planet. This underscores the need for a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to renewable and less environmentally damaging sources of energy.
Also, I want to thank you for retaining language regarding the Magnuson Amendment in your review of the Cherry Point Amendments. I believe it will, in fact, help serve to keep both Whatcom County, and the corporations who do business at Cherry Point, mindful that the County expects compliance with state and federal laws and is prepared to take actions to make sure that compliance occurs. If the mention of such regulations somehow feels negative to corporations who spend tons of money on advertising in newspapers, online media, TV, and lobbying, and can afford to pay local managment/employees to come to meetings to speak on their behalf, you can only imagine how negative it might feel to the regular citizens of Whatcom County who have few sources to advocate for them and certainly much less money to do so, to not have such reminders and other safeguards for the safety and health of our community in our Comprehensive Plan.
When you put language in the Comprehensive Plan that shows that the County will plan and work to stand behind the safety and health of its citizens, even in the face of the power and money of big corporations, it helps us know that you care about all of us who live here. It also helps us not feel so powerless in the face of existing industries. We are painfully aware that they are constantly spending money and using their power to reduce regulations, and under the current presidential administration there is a somber fear that they may well get their way. This is another reason we need the protections for the lands, air, waters, and life forms that you have thus far proposed in the Cherry Point Amendments. Any means you can find to strengthen and secure those protections in our County’s 20 year plan and the ordinances that flow from it will create critical tools citizens can use to their benefit well into the future.
Additionally, I call on you to continue to work hard to find ways to ensure the jobs in our county are ones that elevate and protect the resources and quality of life that we have here. We have made a big mistake all of these years being taken in by the attraction of income that is literally too good to be true. The taxes, economic benefits, energy benefits, and other products we receive from industries who continue to use dangerous and damaging operations to extract, transport and process hazardous and toxic materials are all a false foundation to our well-being. Thank you for all urgent efforts you make to create the underpinnings for a truly healthy future here in Whatcom County.
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