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On 50th Anniversary, a Call for Cleaner Air for North Cascades

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018   

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - North Cascades National Park turns 50 this week, and one group wants Washington state to give the park a gift - with stronger air pollution controls on a nearby oil refinery.

The Washington state Department of Ecology has approved facility updates to BP's Cherry Point refinery north of Bellingham, allowing it to increase production by nearly 9,000 barrels a day, up from its current volume of about 236,000 barrels a day.

In order to expand, said Rob Smith, northwest regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association, the state also should require the oil company to install better pollution protections - and it has the technology.

"BP should do what they've done at their other refineries around the country, which is install fully modern pollution-control equipment, and Ecology is simply not asking them to do that," he said. "We believe they should, and we hope the governor will encourage Ecology to do that."

The National Park Service says the Cherry Point expansion would increase the average number of "impaired" air-quality days at North Cascades from 38 to 54 a year. The agency also found it would bump up the number of bad-air days at Olympic National Park, south of the refinery, from 57 to 70.

BP has said the facility upgrades will increase safety and efficiency.

Smith said North Cascades is a special park, and more smog won't help its wildlife, environment or park visitors.

"It's the most rugged mountain range in the contiguous United States, the lower 48, and a lot of that is being able to see it," he said. "Clean air is an important part of going to the North Cascades."

The National Parks Conservation Association has launched a petition calling on Gov. Jay Inslee to direct the Department of Ecology to revise the Cherry Point expansion permit to require stronger anti-pollution measures. The petition is online here.


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