Monday, June 12, 2017

Not Welcome in Whatcom: Washington State County's Kinder Morgan Kibosh

NW Washington State Blocks Kinder Morgan Exports

by Sven Biggs - Stand.Earth

June 12, 2017 

Whatcom County (population 200,000) is located in the northwest corner of Washington State, just below the Canada-US border. And their local council just made a major win for the climate.

Whatcom might seem like an odd place for a major victory in the fight against multinational fossil fuel corporations, but that is exactly what happened.

The Whatcom County Council voted 6-1 to effectively block a cluster of projects that would have exported coal, oil, natural gas, and propane — enough fossil fuels to emit the equivalent of 200 million tons of climate pollution. To put that in context that is twice the size of Washington State’s annual carbon footprint!

The impact of this decision will be felt here in Canada too. Kinder Morgan’s pipeline has a leg that runs to two refineries in Washington State. In documents filed for their recent IPO, the company suggested that they could double the amount of oil going to that leg of the pipeline. This decision should close the door to that possibility.

This decision is probably also a fatal blow for the Steelhead LNG proposal on Vancouver Island, which saw their plans for an underwater natural pipeline rejected. It also means that we will not see a huge increase to the amount of fossil fuel shipping from US ports on the Salish Sea. That, in combination with the 400 additional oil tankers a year that Kinder Morgan plans to add to these busy waters, would have almost certainly meant death for this vital shared ecosystem.

So what can we learn from this victory?

Organizing works. This didn’t happen on its own, it's the result of hundreds of local residents and volunteers working with environmental groups—including my colleagues at’s Bellingham office—to pack hearings, make phone calls, and write letters to their local representatives.

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Empowered communities make good decisions for the planet. At a time when President Trump is walking away from America’s commitments to fight climate change, Whatcom is just one of many local governments that are stepping up to fill the gap that Trump has created.

It also underlines why Canadian cities need more power to make decisions about fossil fuel infrastructure. If the cities of Vancouver or Burnaby had the kind of local decision-making power that our neighbours in Whatcom have, the Kinder Morgan pipeline would have been shelved years ago.

The people of Whatcom County have won a victory for the climate and the West coast. Now it is up to us to back them up by making sure oil from one of Kinder Morgan’s oil tankers never washes up on their beaches.

Sven Biggs

[It also helps when you have the Executive Director of the Pipeline Safety Trust on Whatcom County Council.]

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