The Gristle

Thin Green Line

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

THIN GREEN LINE: Whatcom County Council continues to slowly shape land-use policies for the Cherry Point industrial area—but with a changing council roster and Canada’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, their work can’t be completed fast enough. Council last week considered a resolution to pass along to the Planning Commission the recommendations of their legal consultant, Cascadia Law Group, to help limit the negative impacts on public safety, transportation, the economy and environment from crude oil, coal, liquefied petroleum gases and natural gas transshipments from the Cherry Point refineries.

If approved, the Cherry Point amendments would prohibit additional new fossil fuel refineries beyond the existing British Petroleum, Phillips 66, and Petrogras facilities, and would limit new crude oil transshipment facilities or projects that have any other purpose other than supplying raw materials to the existing refineries.

The tools local governments can use to limit fossil fuel expansion projects are few and limited, and the Cherry Point amendments aim to put what limited few there are into the toolbox of future planning and development provisions that govern these projects.

Last week, Canada’s federal government approved the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. If completed, the project would result in a surge of new oil tanker traffic through Pacific Northwest waters. Twinning the existing pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby would triple capacity to 890,000 barrels a day. Tanker traffic from the Westridge Marine Terminal in British Columbia would increase from about five to 34 tankers per month. Additionally, an aging spur of Trans Mountain branches south at Abbotsford, carrying Alberta tar sands crude to the four large refineries in Whatcom and Skagit counties along the Puget Sound Pipeline.

Incongruously, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his cabinet’s approval of the expansion just one day after he’d declared a national climate emergency, citing the burning of fossil fuels as a primary cause.

Indigenous tribes throughout the region, including Lummi Nation, expressed their continued opposition to the Trans Mountain expansion.

“Lummi Nation remains unequivocally opposed to the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, and will continue to stand with First Nations in protecting the Salish Sea,” tribal leaders said in a press release. “Our will is strong, and we will stand with other Coast Salish Nations to protect our homeland.”

Lummi’s newly launched Salish Sea Campaign calls for a moratorium on all industrial stressors to the Salish Sea, including the Trans Mountain pipeline. Lummi is also a signatory, along with 149 other First and Tribal Nations, to the Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion Treaty. The alliance includes numerous tribal communities in British Columbia and Swinomish, Tulalip, and Suquamish tribes in Washington.

As an official participant in the NEB hearings last November, Lummi testified that the sevenfold increase in tanker traffic resulting from the pipeline would have devastating impacts on the Southern Resident orca population, as well as on salmon runs and sacred sites protected by treaty.

Governor Jay Inslee, who has launched his presidential campaign focused on climate change, also expressed his displeasure with Trans Mountain.

“The Canadian government’s decision today to approve the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion is alarming and deeply disappointing,” Inslee said in a statement. “This pipeline, if built, will impose significant negative impacts on our coastal communities, increase the risk of oil spills in our shared waters and double down on carbon-intensive fossil fuels at a time when world leaders need to double down on clean energy. It would unwind our urgent efforts to reduce toxics in our environment, protect our orcas and improve oil-transport safety. If the pipeline is expanded, we may see a call for additional investments to bring more fossil fuels into Washington state.”

The Canadian government has expressed confidence that work on the Trans Mountain expansion could begin as early as this summer, but considerable uncertainty exists in the markets and economics of tar sands exports.

“While on its face this feels like a setback, the reality is Canada’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline is almost irrelevant,” said Matt Krogh, Extreme Oil Campaign Director at “The Asian markets are mythical at best, Washington state has all the tar sands it can handle, and robust opposition from frontline communities in California is preventing their refineries from expanding to take more tar sands. The West Coast has stopped new pipelines and oil tankers before, and we’ll do it again.”

British Columbia and the West Coast states have all enacted legislation that would limit or prohibit unrefined crude exports. Whatcom County Council’s work is of the same package.

Council members last week expressed concern with the glacial pace of Planning and Development Services (PDS) staff review of the Cascadia Law Group proposals, and the limited calendar of the Planning Commission to open a public review of the amendments—an amendment process introduced more than three years ago.

“Even on this timeline, even if all the stars align, then our first opportunity to vote on this for adoption is going to be in late October,” Council chair Rud Browne estimated. “And that gives us just three more meetings as a buffer” before the end of their legislative year.

“We need to bring this to closure for the community,” Browne said.

Whatcom County’s thin green line needs all the fortification it can muster in response to expansions that bring more crude oil, tar sands bitumen, fracked gas, propane or coal through our towns, farmland, and waterways.

Past Columns
A Rising Tide

September 11, 2019

The Power of Change

September 4, 2019

Hands Against Hate

August 28, 2019

Ground Zero

August 21, 2019

Fire and Frost

August 14, 2019

The Fury and the Folly

August 7, 2019

Due East II

July 31, 2019

The Real Social Network

July 17, 2019

Due East

July 3, 2019

A Journeyman’s Journey

June 12, 2019

Her Story

June 5, 2019

Do Overs

May 29, 2019

E Pluribus Unum

May 15, 2019

The Millworks

May 8, 2019

State of the County

May 1, 2019

A Change in Climate

April 24, 2019

The Raucous Caucus

April 17, 2019

Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Anything Goes Arts and Crafts

10:30am|Sumas Library

Nuclear Power and Weapons

6:30pm|Lynden Library

'Hamster Church with Brad Lockhart

6:30pm|Old Parish Hall


7:00pm|Alternative Library


9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Grizzly Boy

3:00pm|Point Roberts Library

Cook It and Book It

3:30pm|Lynden Library

Community Conversations Book Club

5:00pm|Village Books

Artist Workshop

6:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Wednesday Farmers Market

2:00pm|Barkley Village Green

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Brewers Cruise

6:30pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Disruptive Play

7:00pm|Village Books

Native Plant Seed Propagation Basics

7:00pm|Sustainable Living Center

Brad Shigeta Quintet

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts,

see our complete calendar »