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Aug. 13, 2022

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Vancouver fossil fuel moratorium set for public hearing

Public can call in as councilors mull extending ban

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

The Vancouver City Council voted unanimously this week to move the city staff’s request to extend its fossil fuel moratorium forward with a second reading and public hearing.

Interested parties can participate in the public hearing on Dec. 6 via a phone or video call. Council members then will decide whether they want to extend the moratorium or let it expire Dec. 8.

During the ordinance’s first reading, there was public support for suspension of fossil fuel facilities.

Cathryn Chudy, a Vancouver resident and member of the Alliance for Community Engagement, said the moratorium has been effective in preserving the safety of Vancouver residents.

“We encourage the city to (develop policy against fossil fuel terminals) in a way that protects our health and safety, and aligns local land use codes with existing city policy and goals,” she said.

Dan Serres, Columbia Riverkeeper’s conservation director, forwarded a statement from a Riverkeeper member in Vancouver. The statement described the necessity of having leadership that isn’t influenced by the status quo. The member wrote that times have changed with the impending threat climate change poses and “there is no future in the past.”

Jean Avery of Vancouver said the fossil fuel ban should become permanent as a part of the city’s Climate Action Plan.

The request for the measure’s extension and potential regulations was presented at a city council workshop on Nov. 21.

If the moratorium passes, it will serve as a continuation of the current suspension. City staff will use the time to update land-use standards for fossil fuel facilities that would align them with planning efforts, such as the Vancouver Strategic Plan, Climate Action Plan and other development code amendments.

City Manager Eric Holmes wrote in a staff report that the moratorium would allow necessary time for city staff to create strategies for implementing the relevant code updates, as well as to reach out to the public and stakeholders.

New facilities that distribute, extract, refine or process fossil fuels would be suspended from these operations. Pre-existing facilities would not be able to expand. Five fossil fuel facilities located around the Port of Vancouver will be affected. Gas stations, rail yards, airports, marine service facilities and services that produce energy from landfill gas and fossil fuel by-products are not impacted by the moratorium.

The measure focuses on public health risks that the facilities present from contaminated water and air pollution. According to city staff, this is particularly important to consider in the event of a powerful earthquake because hazardous materials could flow into the Columbia River and surrounding landscapes.

The Port of Vancouver generally supports the city’s climate goals but had concerns pertaining to zoning limitations on the facilities, according to city staff.

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