Whatcom County puts unrefined fossil fuel projects on hold

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- The Whatcom County Council has temporarily banned new permit applications for projects that ship crude oil and other unrefined fossil fuels out of Cherry Point.

The 60-day moratorium unanimously approved Tuesday prevents shipments or exports of fuels that aren't processed in that industrial area.

The council says it's needed to protect the public while the county weighs changes to its land-use plan that may restrict future crude oil and other exports out of Cherry Point.

Cherry Point is the site of two oil refineries, BP and Phillips 66, which have in recent years expanded their facilities to accept crude oil shipments by train. The moratorium, however, wouldn't affect current shipments.

Supporters applauded the move, saying it will protect the public from dangerous fuel shipments. Others say potential changes to the industrial zone could hurt jobs and economic development.