The Vancouver City Council unanimously voted Monday to extend its fossil fuel moratorium for an additional six months to improve public and environmental health.
Under the moratorium, the city cannot accept permit applications for new fossil fuel facilities that distribute, extract, refine or process fossil fuels. Facilities and services that produce energy from landfill gas and fossil fuel byproducts, as well as gas stations, rail yards, airports and marine services are not impacted.
Voices during the public comment period echoed the importance of considering what would occur around the facilities in the event of a natural disaster. Seismic conditions could result in hazardous materials flowing into the Columbia River and pose a public health risk from contaminated water.
Navin Nagaraj, a Battle Ground doctor, said local policies can be determinates of health through environmental impacts, and it’s essential for the city to thoughtfully review its reliance on fossil fuel facilities.
Others addressed how the past summer’s heat pollution harmed fish in the warming Columbia River, as well as agriculture in Southwest Washington.
The extension serves as a continuance of the previous moratorium, which was set to end on Dec. 8. City staff will use the additional time to review their strategies moving forward relative to the Vancouver Strategic Plan, Climate Action Plan and code updates.
Chad Eiken, community development director, said the effort supports an overarching goal to change zoning codes that would implement similar limitations on fossil fuel facilities defined in the moratorium. City staff will spend the allotted time ensuring the new codes are legally defensible.
The decision to continue the fossil fuel suspension was also supported by the Port of Vancouver.
Mike Bomar, Port of Vancouver director of economic development, said the moratorium won’t severely impact the port’s ongoing operations. The city and the port collaborated to generate an outcome that would establish certainty for its tenants and customers, he said.
“(With the final ordinance) we can continue to move our economy forward while leading together on climate initiatives,” Bomar said.