December 4th Special Committee of the Whole: Cherry Point Industries got to have their say; other Cherry Point stakeholders did not / Noisy Waters Northwest

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December 6, 2018  Dena Jensen

Remember the discussion a few months back (I have one post on my blog from around May where this was discussed in a County Council committee meeting, and I think there have been others since) when there was a lot of pressure, especially from County Council Member Tyler Byrd, to let Cherry Point Industries give additional input over and above all the comments and letters they have presented to Council over the last couple years? Other Council Members did not necessarily disagree but did not want it to happen at the very meetings Council Members Byrd or Brenner were asking industry people, without notice to the public, to step up to the mic on the spot. Other Council Members also had stressed the importance of making sure other Cherry Point stakeholders were present for discussions on Cherry Point industries.

Here was one of two agenda items from Tuesday December 4, 2018, for the Council’s Special Committee of the Whole meeting:  “1. Discussion regarding preliminary draft Comprehensive Plan and zoning amendments – Cherry Point (discussion to focus on industry responses to questions asked by Council in September) (AB2018-076D)” (I wrote about this agenda item in this blog post: https://noisywatersnw.com/2018/11/30/less-threats-to-the-salish-sea-xwechiexen-and-our-community-the-2018-proposed-whatcom-county-cherry-point-amendments-noisy-waters-northwest/) 

Such a description led me to believe that the Council Members on the committee would be discussing, amongst themselves, the written responses they received from industry representatives to their September 27, 2018 letter requesting information from those industries, in terms of their considerations for drafting amendments to the Land Use section of the Comprehensive Plan regarding Cherry Point. 

What happened instead was, 30 seconds into the meeting, right after Special Committee Chair Rud Browne finished reading the agenda item, he asked if there were any representatives from industry who wanted to come up and speak. This evolved into an hour and a half discussion with three industry reps., including industry presentations that ranged from more normal public-comment-sized presentations of around 3 minutes from Alcoa Intalco Works Representative Laura McKinney, and Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery Representative Tim D. Johnson, to an over 10 minute presentation by Pam Brady of BP Cherry Point.  The discussion with each representative varied, and both representatives and Council Members were able to give their opinions about things other than just the questions that were asked in the letter that the County Council sent out to Cherry Point Industries on September 27, 2018.  Here is a link to the audio of the meeting: https://www.dropbox.com/s/a7n41cmj2m1qum5/Special%20Committee%20of%20the%20Whole%20PM%20December%204%202018.MP3?dl=0

Meanwhile, at about 1:27 on the audio, after Committee Chair Browne asked if there were any other industry representatives that wanted to speak and none came forward, there was NO enquiry as to whether any other members of the public wanted to speak – for example other Cherry Point stakeholders like tribal members or Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve representatives, environmental groups etc. –  and the committee immediately moved on to the second item on their agenda.

I don’t know if there just were no other members of the public present, but even if there weren’t, how would anyone have known to show up to give their input? And by Council’s actions, it seems clear they did not intend to extend an invitation to all Cherry Point stakeholders to participate. 

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