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article imageMoratorium creates major roadblock to US and Canadian fuel exports

By Karen Graham     Jun 11, 2017 in Politics
While the move received little attention from the mainstream media, on March 21, 2017, the Whatcom County, Washington Council voted in favor of extending for six months a moratorium on shipments of unrefined fossil fuels out of the Cherry Point area.
In early January, the state of Washington rejected a request by Northwest Alloys, a subsidiary of Alcoa, to sublease state-owned aquatic lands to the Millennium Bulk Terminals project to be used as a major coal export terminal.
At the time of the refusal, Millennium's parent company, Arch Coal was undergoing bankruptcy proceedings. The state's Department of Natural Resources also cited Millennium as having "a chronic pattern of failure" to provide "essential and accurate information" about the viability of its export markets in light of the bankruptcy of its parent company.
The 2.6 million acres aquatic site Millennium was interested in leasing from the state includes the aquatic lands that lie beneath Puget Sound, the Washington coast, and navigable rivers. The aquatic lands on the Columbia River are adjacent to the proposed coal terminal.
Whatcom County Washington is on the border with Canada. It already has two oil refineries.
Whatcom County Washington is on the border with Canada. It already has two oil refineries.
Washington Audubon Society
Whatcom County and Cherry Point
Puget Sound's Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, north of Bellingham, was also expanded to include an additional 45 acres now under protection. This acreage had been the proposed site for the Gateway Pacific Coal Export Terminal that was rejected by the US Army Corps of Engineers in early 2016.
By tying up state lands with a pretty ribbon, Washington was prepared for Donald Trump when he assumed the presidency. And one of the first things Trump did was reverse a moratorium on granting new coal leases on federal lands in the West, leading to Cherry Point export facilities being flooded with requests for export applications for LNG, propane, coal, and bitumen.
Cherry Point is already the site of two oil refineries, BP and Phillips 66, and they have expanded their facilities to accept crude oil shipments by train. But more importantly, the fossil fuel infrastructure in Cherry Point has experienced dwindling community support.
Bellingham  Washington including the waterfront redevelopment  downtown  and Mount Baker in the dist...
Bellingham, Washington including the waterfront redevelopment, downtown, and Mount Baker in the distance..
Nick Kelly / Faithlife Corporation
Canadian energy company Petrogas acquired a wharf in Cherry Point recently for a fracked fuel export facility, The Wharf is next to the Petrogas Ferndale Terminal, acquired earlier, which provides storage and distribution of propane and butane to domestic and international markets.
Before Petrogas acquired the facility, the terminal averaged two or three ships a year. Now, evidence suggests that overseas shipments have increased six-fold, with Petrogas shipping 30,000 barrels of propane per day of Canadian refined fracked gas, according to Sight Line. While it had been assumed that Petrogas was getting the fuel to the facility via pipeline, RBN Energy has reported the site’s expansion relied on rail deliveries.
Taking a stand against fossil fuels at Cherry Point
The whole point of extending the moratorium on fossil fuels being shipped out of Cherry Point is simple - Whatcom County does not want to become known as the "new outpost for fossil fuel exports." And this has taken on even greater significance since Trump pulled the country out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
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DRG - Seattle
“Who knows what kind of things are going to be coming at us with all the relaxed environmental regulations,” Barry Buchanan, council chair in Whatcom County, told DeSmog Canada. “But we are determined to be the last line of defense. We are going to give it everything we have got.”
According to the amendments to the moratorium, the county is going to study the existing laws so they can develop recommendations “for legal ways the county may choose to limit the negative impacts on public safety, transportation, the economy and environment from crude oil, coal, liquefied petroleum gases and natural gas exports from (Cherry Point) above levels in existence as of March 1, 2017.
Basically, according to Buchanan, the county wants to enact permanent legislation. However, Whatcom County's move is set to become an important legal test case as communities are fighting back against fossil fuels across the country. So Whatcom County is sure to be in the news feed for some time to come.
More about Whatcom County, Cherry Point, Fossil fuels, Federal Government, landuse plan
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