Whatcom County may restart Cherry Point regulatory work

The Lens | October 1, 2020

For more than four years the Whatcom County Council has explored reregulating the Cherry Point industrial area, already one of the most regulated and environmentally clean in the world. The Planning Commission in August recommended changes to the council’s proposed regulatory amendments following an extensive stakeholder process. However, recent statements by councilmembers at its Sept. 29 meeting suggest they intend to ignore those recommendations.

Meanwhile, industry members warn that the wrong policies adopted could jeopardize the region’s economy that is already reeling from the curtailment of Intalco’s smelting plant earlier this year.

“Industries and refineries – they can pack up and leave,” Mills Electric President and CEO John Huntley said. “If that happens, Whatcom will be a disaster.”

The Cherry Point industrial area contains two refineries – the Cherry Point Refineries: BP Cherry Point Refinery and Phillips 66 Ferndale – which are one of the county’s largest employers. According to a 2019 report, the area provides 3,320 jobs that pay a median wage of $110,00, and the area composes 3.75 percent of all employment in the county.

The area has been the focus of regulatory changes for almost five years. The Planning Commission conducted 10 work sessions with industry members and environmental groups after the council submitted its proposed changes.

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