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Day of LNG hearing also to include rally, march

Puget Sound Energy’s liquefied natural gas facility on the Tideflats faces a final public permit hearing on Tuesday, and both sides once again are ready to make their case for and against the project.

The hearing, like the one held in October, is set to take place in two sessions: from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday at Tacoma’s Rialto Theater, 310 S. Ninth St..

The two sessions will address Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s draft approval order for the LNG project’s facility construction permit.

The objective of the hearing is to hear and record public comment for the project,” PSCAA said Aug. 20 in its hearing update. “Those interested in making oral comments will be asked to sign up on a first come, first served basis. Comments will be limited to two minutes each.”

Written comments also will be accepted at the hearing.

The agency in July said it had completed a review of the project’s Notice of Construction Application and had made “a preliminary determination that the proposal meets all the requirements of Agency Regulations I, II and III and should be approved.”

The facility would produce between 250,000-500,000 gallons a day of LNG. The LNG would be stored in a 8 million-gallon tank under construction on the Tideflats, and provide about 900,000 gallons of LNG each week to TOTE Maritime for its two Alaska ships.

TOTE Maritime recently made news with the announcement that it was moving its headquarters from Federal Way to Tacoma next year.

The LNG plant also would provide about 6-8 million gallons of LNG for local customers during peak winter demand. Puget Sound Energy says the site will help boost the reliability of the fuel supply for Western Washington.

As part of its public outreach on the project, this summer PSE mailed promotional information about the project to local residents.

PSE told The News Tribune on Friday it had spent roughly $15,000 on the mailed booklets.

“None of those dollars came from customer rates,” the company said in response to questions Friday. “There has been a lot of misinformation about this project, so we felt it was important to inform and educate our customers about Tacoma LNG and its benefits.”

In the October PSCAA sessions, which dealt with the project’s draft supplemental environmental impact statement, (DSEIS) the project’s opponents outnumbered its supporters in testimony offered to PSCAA representatives.

This time, opponents are gearing up to not only be at the sessions but also to rally ahead of the first hearing in front of the theater, starting at 1 p.m.

The Power Past Fracked Gas Coalition, in a statement issued Friday, said: “Tacoma-area residents are calling on PSCAA to consider the flaws in their analysis, address the lack of consultation with the Puyallup Tribe, and deny this permit.”

The group also noted Gov. Jay Inslee’s previously stated opposition to the facility, which he announced in May.

The coalition consists of a collection of health, environmental, faith and community groups.

Before the rally, a march also is planned starting at noon Tuesday at Don Pugnetti Park at South 21st Street and Pacific Avenue downtown, according to an advisory sent Friday .

Opponents contend the clock is ticking on not just the project’s approval process, but the environment.

Melissa Malott, executive director of Citizens for Healthy Bay, told The News Tribune on Friday: “We have reliable clean energy opportunities, and the technology is coming. Letting the PSE LNG facility move forward will worsen climate pollution at the worst possible time. This project will make it harder to solve climate change.”

“We can do better.”

When asked Friday about the continuing opposition to the project, PSE responded with the following statement:

Puget Sound Energy stands by our Tacoma LNG facility as a project that will benefit the environment. LNG reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful particulates that create black carbon, which contributes to global warming immediately.”

“Using LNG as fuel will also benefit the water in Commencement Bay. In the unlikely event of a spill in the water, LNG turns into vapor and dissipates with no lasting effects on water or marine life.”

Malott, whose group also took issue with the findings in the draft SEIS in October, says the extraction process remains problematic.

“Many people are saying this will benefit the environment because if you only look at the combustion of natural gas as a fuel, it burns more cleanly than diesel. However, natural gas extraction leads to an enormous amount of climate pollution, and that pollution is especially potent in the first few decades it is released, making gas much worse for the climate than burning diesel.

“So while you can identify certain specific aspects of the LNG project that are better than the status quo, the climate impacts of the project are far worse than isolated benefits. We are facing a globally significant climate crisis that will expose today’s youth and following generations to devastating consequences if we don’t dramatically reduce climate emissions in the next decade.”

While the hearing is the last chance for members of the public to offer testimony to PSCAA members in person about the project, a separate battle over the project is playing out in court.

On July 9, Advocates for a Cleaner Tacoma filed a legal challenge over the state Department of Ecology’s granting of water quality certification for the project.

The case contends that Ecology violated SEPA issuing the certification without a full analysis in regard to the site’s emissions and other environmental effects.

Ecology denied the allegations in its response filed July 26 in Thurston County Superior Court.

ACT’s filing against Ecology noted that “On Nov. 21, 2018, the Department of Ecology and the Washington State Attorney General submitted comments stating the (greenhouse gas) analysis contained in the DSEIS was inadequate. Their comments were incorporated into the final SEIS issued to the project on March 29, 2019.”

The final SEIS was used to support PSCAA’s review of the project’s air permit application.

Ecology, in its case response, stated: “Ecology admits that Ecology and the Office of the Attorney General submitted comments on the draft SEIS ... Those comment letters speak for themselves, and are the best evidence of their contents. Ecology denies any allegations inconsistent with the comment letters and the SEIS.”

It also denied any implication that PSCAA did not analyze the projects greenhouse gas emissions until receipt of Ecology’s letter, and noted in its filing, “Petitioners will have the opportunity to challenge the SEIS and PSCAA’s decision on the air permit, and therefore, the alleged actions of Ecology as described in the petition are not the cause of Petitioner’s alleged injuries.”

DOCUMENTS, PUBLIC COMMENT

DOCUMENTS: The application and the information used in making the preliminary determination by PSCAA are available for review at the agency’s office: 1904 3rd Ave, Suite 105, Seattle. The proposed Order of Approval and associated review documents and application materials related to Order No. 11386 also are available online: www.pscleanair.org/PSELNGPermit.

PUBLIC COMMENT: People can send comments in writing to Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, 1904 Third Ave, Suite 105, Seattle, WA 98101 or via email to publiccomment@pscleanair.org or via fax to 206-343-7522. The comment period ends Sept. 9.

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