In the past couple of years, people became alarmed in Washington about the environmental impact of fossil fuels. Multiple project proposals were rejected by the state before the official policy was passed last month. However, it is the first time fossil fuel infrastructure is completely banned officially. The state is embracing renewable energy far ahead of the other states in the country.
On 27th July 2021, the Whatcom County council passed a bill that bans coal-fired power plants, new refineries, and other fossil-fuels-linked infrastructure. The bill also emphasis restrictions on existing fossil fuel facilities. Additionally, the existing ones are not allowed to add extra requirements which have carbon emissions.
Todd Donovan, who is serving his second term on the council said, “There will be no new refineries, they won’t be able to get permits to export their product and while we will still have these dinosaur facilities already here it will be more challenging for them to expand. The future is clearly in renewable energy.”
In 2016, Lummi Nation in Washington prevailed against the largest coal port in North America. It was on the grounds that the coal port would damage local whales and impact fisheries. Donovan said, “We just had our hottest day on record a few days ago, the salmon are disappearing, the glaciers are melting so much that you look at Mount Baker near here and you see the bare rock where there used to be ice,” Donovan added, “With all the fires and the heat, people are connecting the dots that this is climate change caused by fossil fuels. It has galvanized them.”
The fossil fuel industry attempt to block restriction
The Fossil fuel industry attempted to block this restriction pointing out that many jobs would be lost with this move. They also invested in local elections to influence this decision. However, other parties have environmental concerns as the highest priority.
Manager of north-west external affairs for the Western States Petroleum Association, Holli Johnson said, “Washington’s energy industry believes that ongoing capital investment into existing refinery operations is necessary to ensure the safe, state-of-the-art, clean production of transportation fuels,”
Environmentalists in the US hope that this will influence the other states in the country too. Joe Biden’s administration is working towards reducing carbon emissions and eventually states will have to implement policies on the same. Already the US government paused new oil and gas drilling contracts on land.
A campaigner at the environmental group Stand earth who lives in Whatcom county, Matt Krogh said, “This is a huge moment, it challenges the narrative that has been the default of the past century that new fossil fuel infrastructure is inevitable and will always be built,” Further Krogh added, “There is a tipping point where if enough communities take action we will see Washington DC take notice.”
Credits- The Guardian