Letter to Whatcom County Council regarding renewable energy projects at Xwe’chi’eXen/Cherry Point / Noisy Waters Northwest

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Click on the graphic to access a copy of Resolution 2020-004, Resolution supporting environmentally friendly renewable energy projects

February 12, 2020  Dena Jensen

Just over two weeks ago, on January 28, 2020, the Whatcom County Council held their regular meeting which happened to last nearly 5 hours that night. I just finished listening to the whole meeting yesterday, February 11, (the date of their most recent meeting.) One of the last things Council Members did before adjourning that night was to pass Resolution 2020-004, “Supporting environmentally friendly renewable energy projects.” The resolution was proposed by Council Member Tyler Byrd, and passed with a 7-0 vote by the full Council.

Here is an email that I sent today regarding the resolution and the discussion Council Members had about it at that January 28, meeting:

To: council@co.whatcom.wa.us; tbyrd@co.whatcom.wa.us; belenbaa@co.whatcom.wa.us; bbuchana@co.whatcom.wa.us; tdonovan@co.whatcom.wa.us; cfrazey@co.whatcom.wa.us; rbrowne@co.whatcom.wa.us; kkershne@co.whatcom.wa.us

Cc: ssidhu@co.whatcom.wa.us; pds_planning_commission@whatcomcounty.us; pds@co.whatcom.wa.us>

Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2020, 06:02:56 PM PST

Subject: Regarding renewable energy projects at Xwe’chi’eXen/Cherry Point

Dear Whatcom County Council:

I recently listened to the January 28, 2020 regular County Council meeting. I wanted to address a couple things related to your discussion of Council Member Byrd’s resolution regarding expediting the permitting process for renewable energy projects. I support our county government seeking to act efficiently and promptly regarding permitting. I believe in taking efforts to make sure definitions are clear and to reduce subjectivity in decision-making to whatever beneficial degree that is reasonably possible. I also feel it is important to support staff in becoming as educated as possible about everything surrounding permitting so that both they and the people seeking permits can engage in a process that is hospitable for everyone involved. To this end, I agree with Council Member’s decision to pass Resolution 2020-004.

I also wanted to comment on something else put forth in the discussion, starting first with a remark made by Council Member Elenbaas which indicated that if people read what Stand.earth and Alex Ramel stand for, that people would understand some kind of intent in the proposed Cherry Point Comprehensive Plan and code amendments – which Alex Ramel of Stand helped to draft – that Council Member Elenbaas implied would be discouraging to sound renewable energy projects. There is nothing on Stand.earth’s website Mission and Vision or Alex Ramel’s profile that says they want to oppose beneficial renewable energy projects, quite the contrary. Here is a quote from a Stand.earth blog post (https://www.stand.earth/blog/why-world-needs-fossil-fuel-non-proliferation-treaty):

“A peaceful and just transition calls for a clear path and a proactive plan to enable economic diversification, implement renewable energy and other reliable, cost-effective low-carbon solutions, and to support every worker, community and country. We can either intentionally develop new ways to meet our needs or lose the window of opportunity to ensure a safe climate, healthy economy and sustainable future.” 

During the discussion, Council Member Byrd – who proposed the resolution – put forward the idea that renewable energy projects, like the one proposed by Green Apple, are something we are all in agreement that we want.  But even though renewable energy projects can be beneficial, it doesn’t mean that just because they are a renewable energy project, that they are going to be beneficial. And just because proposed projects may bring jobs and just because industry jobs pay relatively well, it does not mean that projects that are going to be located amidst historical cultural lands of Lummi Nation and surrounded by the sensitive environment of an aquatic reserve on the Salish Sea (which encompasses treaty-guaranteed tribal fishing locations and habitat critical to endangered species) are going to be compatible with that location. This is why thorough regulatory review, with meaningful consultation with Native American tribes and Nations, along with a robust public process is critical to industrial projects proposed to be located at Cherry Point. There may be other industrial locations in other places that are not in the midst of such sensitive and valuable lands, waters, and life forms, but Cherry Point is not simply valuable as land located adjacent to a deep water port. Its health, safety, and integrity is critical to the health, safety, and integrity of our entire community and ecosystem. 

A speaker during public session that night of the meeting had mentioned how it was good that Council Members were getting to hear from the Lake Samish stakeholders on another issue and implied that union and industry representatives were the stakeholders for Cherry Point. Labor union members and workers from Cherry Point businesses are only two of many types of stakeholders at Cherry Point. And being a resident living just a mile and a half from BP, I am one of those stakeholders too. The input and opinion of all stakeholder groups – especially that of Lummi Nation who inhabited and protected Xwe’chi’eXen for thousands of years before an industrial zone was placed on it – must be considered regarding any proposed projects, for renewable energy or anything else, at Cherry Point.


Dena Jensen

Birch Bay, WA