Low oil prices, which have led to thousands of layoffs across the country this year, seem to have hit Bellingham’s CH2M Hill office.
The multinational environmental and engineering consulting firm said today that it’s closing its local office because of a downturn in the oil and gas industry. The office, at 21 Bellwether Way, employs about 120 people, company spokesperson John Corsi said in an email.
Most Bellingham employees work on engineering consulting projects for oil and gas refineries, Corsi said.
The Denver-based firm is looking into placing Bellingham employees in other CH2M hill offices, Corsi said. He emphasized that CH2M Hill is committed to Washington state. It has offices in Seattle, Spokane and Richland, and other project locations around Washington.
Crude oil’s drop from $100 a barrel last year to about $50 a barrel this month—caused by increased production and stagnant demand—has led to a lot of layoffs in the energy industry.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of workers employed in oil and gas extraction went from 198,400 in August 2014 to an estimated 192,600 in August 2015, a loss of 5,800 jobs. The Houston Chronicle reported last month that 176,162 energy jobs have been cut globally in the past year.
Closing its Bellingham office is not a sign that CH2M Hill is exiting the gas and oil business, Corsi said.
“We’re always reevaluating our geographic footprint on how we can best serve our clients,” he said.
CH2M Hill has about 2,500 employees in offices around the world. It’s managed such projects as an environmental cleanup at Hanford nuclear site, construction of FIFA World Cup sites and expanding the Panama Canal.
Locally, the company is managing the environmental impact statement process for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would ship coal and dry bulk goods from Cherry Point, west of Ferndale.
The Bellingham office’s closure won’t affect CH2M Hill’s work on that project, Corsi said.