Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe accepted responsibility for not telling the public that he planned to extend the feasibility period for a proposed liquefied natural gas plant before he did it.
“I don’t have a great excuse other than things have been fairly busy,” Wolfe said during Thursday’s Port of Tacoma commission meeting.
Puget Sound Energy is planning an LNG plant on 30 acres of land at the Port of Tacoma, and PSE had asked for the two-month extension of the feasibility period of the lease, which Wolfe granted.
Wolfe’s decision was announced late on a Friday this month.
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During the feasibility period, PSE can withdraw from the lease at a lower cost than if it did so during the following lease phase, called the construction period. Wolfe extended the lease’s feasibility period from Aug. 31 to Oct. 31.
Afterward, opponents of the project flooded the port with emails and calls. Wolfe said he had extended other leases’ feasibility periods before without fanfare, so the public outcry this time caught him off guard.
PSE spokesman Grant Ringel said the company requested the lease period extension sometime in August.
The announcement that Wolfe had used his authority as port chief executive to sign the extension came two days after the initial feasibility period ended.
As far as the LNG plant is concerned, Wolfe said, the community is worried about safety and the environment.
The port, he said, is always concerned about safety.
Wolfe said the upside of the LNG plant is LNG is a “replacement fuel for heavy diesel. It has an environmentally friendly story tied to it.”
This diesel, sometimes called bunker fuel, sends particulates into the atmosphere, which can cause respiratory problems.
Late in the meeting, PSE director of resource acquisitions Roger Garratt announced the public will be able to view the same documents the utility has so far sued to keep out of public view, citing a federal law as a shield against disclosure.
Ringel said those wishing to view the information must travel to a to-be-determined Puget Sound Energy office and sign a nondisclosure agreement.
The entire procedure will be revealed next week, Ringel said.