Port of Tacoma

Port of Tacoma could ban fossil fuel export projects on its property

For more than a year, Port of Tacoma commissioners have said they won’t allow any international fossil fuel exporting projects on its publicly owned land.

The statements came after criticism from residents following the failed effort to place a methanol manufacturing plant at the port, but nothing was adopted as official policy.

Now the commission is poised to formalize its position before the end of the year, in a policy document called the “Comprehensive Scheme for Harbor Improvements.”

That’s encouraging, said City Councilman Ryan Mello, who last year said all fossil fuel export projects should be banned on the Tideflats. Pierce County residents, he said then, “don’t want to keep coming to public meetings to fight dirty thing after dirty thing.”

On Thursday, Mellow said of the port commission, “It’s looking like they are finally going to entertain this step.”

Still, he said, he remains skeptical.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said.

Mello also called the port vote “curious timing,” given the City Council will hold a hearing about interim regulations for the Tideflats on Tuesday with a possible vote the next week.

The regulations would temporarily require more scrutiny and wider notification for fossil fuel or chemical projects on the Tideflats.

Port Commission President Dick Marzano said he wanted the commission to be on the record about its opposition to international fossil fuel export projects on port-owned land.

“We’ve told the public time and time again,” he said Thursday. “The port’s never been in the business of exporting fossil fuels.”

Years ago, a coal export company wanted to do business on port land, but was turned away. Turning down such business “doesn’t take away from what the port is doing, now or in the future,” Marzano said.

The commission will discuss the policy shift at its Tuesday (Nov. 14) meeting. It could formally adopt it during a Dec. 21 meeting.

Melissa Malott, executive director for Citizens for a Healthy Bay, said she’s glad to see the resolution.

“We are glad to see them listen to the community, and it would be great to see it go beyond port-owned property on the Tideflats,” she said.

The interim regulations the City Council will discuss next week would restrict fossil fuel and industrial uses on the entirety of the Tideflats, of which the port owns a fraction.

“I would hope the City Council would realize what we are not going to do and at the same time realize maybe these regulations are not necessary,” Marzano said.

On Thursday, Mello noted the city regulates use of the property, not the port.

The port and city have talked off and on for more than a year about a wide-ranging land-use document, called a subarea plan, for the Tideflats. It can take more than a year to create such a plan.

Mello said the interim regulations are intended to be temporary until the city crafts the subarea plan.

“We will continue to change land use (regulations) to protect the community more permanently,” Mello said.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports