After years of employing temporary moratoriums on new fossil fuel developments, the city of Vancouver can finally lift its hold now that protective zoning codes are in place.
New facilities that distribute, extract, refine or process fossil fuels were prohibited from being established beginning in 2020, when the first six-month moratorium was implemented. Four additional moratoriums later, the Vancouver City Council unanimously approved proposed amendments Monday to make the ban permanent. The ordinance is set to take effect in early November.
Chad Eiken, city community and economic development director, told the council on Monday that the amendments will safeguard the public and further the city’s climate action goals.
The code amendments create new land use categories for fuel storage and handling facilities and prohibits large new fossil fuel facilities in all zoning districts. Facilities with a capacity of 60,000 gallons or less are permitted in industrial zones. Cleaner fuel facilities with a holding capacity up to one million gallons are permitted.
Existing bulk fossil fuel facilities can receive maintenance and upgrades, including a conversion to cleaner fuels, which permits an expansion up to 15 percent.
Residents who backed the ordinance filled the Vancouver City Council’s public hearing session, many of whom have closely followed the years-long journey to ban new bulk fossil fuel facilities. In 2018, Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a plan to develop the nation’s largest crude-oil-by-rail terminal at the Port of Vancouver, after almost five years of controversy and debate.
“We appreciate our Vancouver City Council and staff for developing and passing this important health and safety protection for Vancouver,” Cathryn Chudy of Vancouver said. “This reflects our council’s commitment to addressing the safety risks and environmental health disparities that are disproportionately felt in the neighborhoods where these facilities are located.”
“As a mother of two children growing up in Vancouver, I appreciate that this ordinance helps Vancouver meet its climate goals and also its environmental justice goals,” Monica Zazueta of Vancouver said. “Without this, our air quality would diminish and our climate-changing pollution would increase, and my kids would breathe dirtier air.”
Heidi Cody, Alliance for Community Engagement co-director, said it makes more economic sense to transition to clean energy than to pay the health and safety costs of relying on fossil fuels.
Representatives from local conservation groups, including Columbia Riverkeeper and the Washington Environmental Council, also relayed their support, noting the necessity to protect the region’s natural resources.
“The Columbia River is the lifeblood of our region, and more fossil fuel terminals would greatly exacerbate the safety and spill risks we already face from existing terminals,” said Dan Serres, Columbia Riverkeeper conservation director.