Port of Tacoma

Permit for Port of Tacoma LNG plant survives tribal challenge

Puget Sound Energy’s proposed liquified natural gas plant at the Port of Tacoma moved a step closer to reality this week when a state panel upheld a key permit.

The state Shorelines Hearings Board rejected the Puyallup Tribe’s appeal of a Tacoma city development permit that allowed PSE to develop along the Commencement Bay shoreline, over objections it would harm conditions in the Blair Waterway.

PSE plans to build the facility on 30 acres on the peninsula between the Blair and Hylebos waterways, where it will pipe in natural gas and chill it to a denser liquid known as LNG for use by utility customers and resale to ships and other customers.

The utility so far has one external customer for the LNG — Totem Ocean Trailer Express, which is converting two ships from marine bunker fuel to LNG to cut pollution.

The plant, which would store up to 8 million gallons of LNG on-site, originally was planned to be built with fueling docks on the Blair and Hylebos waterways to pump LNG onto ships.

However, after PSE’s initial round of filings for the plant, the privately held utility scrapped the idea of building on the Hylebos, citing concerns by the Puyallup Tribe.

Government records indicate the federal Environmental Protection Agency also raised concerns about whether construction on the Hylebos would release contaminated sediments in the long-polluted waterway.

The tribe argued to the state agency that the permit Tacoma officials granted for shoreline construction should be revoked.

Its attorneys said the city should have required testing of Blair Waterway sediment for pollution and because the plan was changed after the permit was approved to delete the Hylebos dock.

The Shorelines Hearings Board’s ruling, issued Monday, rejected those arguments. The ruling states the proposed construction “achieves no net loss of ecological functions.”

The board “did a great job of carefully considering the issues,” said Carolyn Lake, general counsel for the port.

The tribe can appeal the ruling to the state court system. A spokesman for the tribe did not return a call.

PSE spokesman Grant Ringel said the facility is on schedule to begin demolition to clear the site this year. The ruling, he said, clears the way for the project to move ahead.

“It’s an affirmation of the work Puget Sound Energy has done to make sure the project complies with all applicable regulations and protects the environment,” Ringel said.

Derrick Nunnally: 253-597-8693, @dcnunnally.