Port of Tacoma

Port adds air pollution to list that would trigger public scrutiny

Container facilities at the Port of Tacoma. The Port Commission is adding to its list of developments that it proposes receive extensive public scrutiny.
Container facilities at the Port of Tacoma. The Port Commission is adding to its list of developments that it proposes receive extensive public scrutiny. AP file, 2014

The Port of Tacoma commission is seeking comment on proposed transparency measures at three upcoming meetings.

The changes were first floated at a commission meeting last month and led to stunned gasps from the audience.

The Port Commission’s current policy allows it to pass along major projects after only one public airing. The new policy mirrors that of many surrounding governments. It proposes more public meetings and opportunities for public comment before commissioners sign leases for projects that meet the following criteria:

▪ “Stores, processes, manufactures or distributes fossil fuels” on more than 10 acres of land.

▪ Uses more than 1 million gallons of water per day.

▪ Uses more than 26 megawatts of electricity.

Since that July meeting, commissioners have added another to the list:

▪ Stationary projects that would emit more than 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (or carbon dioxide equivalent) per year, more than 10 metric tons per year of any individually listed hazardous air pollutants, or 100 metric tons per year of any other registered air pollutant.

Carbon dioxide is one of many greenhouse gasses that contribute to the warming of Earth’s atmosphere. The state Department of Ecology requires large facilities to report emissions every year if they emit at least 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses in a year. Most such facilities include power plants, refineries, and pulp and paper mills.

The south Puget Sound area’s air quality has been less than stellar. In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said most of Pierce County too frequently violated national limits on fine air particulates — soot and dust that come from burning diesel fuel and wood.

In addition to discussing the project at two Port Commission meetings, there will be a study session that outlines proposed lease details, project time line, financial impacts, environmental issues, utility requirements, safety issues and facility operations.

Policy changes will be discussed at a small group meeting of the Port of Tacoma and Tacoma City Council at 9 a.m. Monday, at a commission meeting at noon Aug. 18, and at noon Sept. 15. All meetings will be held at the Fabulich Center, 3600 Port of Tacoma Road.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542

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