PSE goes to court again to block LNG plant disclosures

For the second time in two months, Puget Sound Energy has gone to court to fight a public records request by The News Tribune over the utility’s proposed Tacoma Tideflats liquefied natural gas plant.

On Thursday, the day the state Utilities and Transportation Commission was to hand over a report from its ongoing hearings over the plant, the utility obtained a temporary restraining order from Thurston County Superior Court Commissioner Rebekah Zinn to block the release.

Zinn wrote that the order keeps alive PSE’s ability to challenge the report’s release in a court hearing, which is scheduled for Oct. 14 before Thurston County Judge Gary R. Tabor.

The News Tribune was not notified before the court hearing and was not named as a party.

The UTC has for more than a year held a series of hearings concerning the financial structure of the proposed plant. PSE, which is privately held by the Australia-based Macquarie Group, provides utility service to 1.1 million electric and 790,000 gas customers in Washington, according to its website.

In August, PSE filed a lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court that blocked Tacoma city officials from releasing safety studies about the plant to The News Tribune. Three activists have separately made similar requests, and the matter is now before the state Court of Appeals.

The newspaper has obtained copies of those studies separately and has filed to leave that case.

The LNG plant that PSE proposes to build on 30 acres of leased Port of Tacoma land would cost $275 million and start running in 2019, according to PSE’s public statements. The project has obtained several of the government permits it needs to start construction, including a shoreline development permit that the Puyallup Tribe has appealed in Thurston County courts.

Derrick Nunnally: 253-597-8693, @dcnunnally