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PSE drops one court fight against LNG records release, continues another

A view Sept. 28 from the East 11th Street bridge of Puget Sound Energy’s proposed 30-acre liquid natural gas plant site on the Tacoma Tideflats. The $275 million plant would be situated along Alexander Avenue and East 11th Street between the Blair (in background) and Hylebos Waterways.
A view Sept. 28 from the East 11th Street bridge of Puget Sound Energy’s proposed 30-acre liquid natural gas plant site on the Tacoma Tideflats. The $275 million plant would be situated along Alexander Avenue and East 11th Street between the Blair (in background) and Hylebos Waterways. dperine@thenewstribune.com

Puget Sound Energy on Friday dropped its court fight to keep safety studies of its proposed Tacoma liquified natural gas plant secret after The News Tribune published the records.

In a filing with the state Court of Appeals, PSE said it was abandoning its lawsuit to block the public-records releases of the siting study and fire protection evaluation for its Tideflats LNG plant to three activists who requested them from government agencies. The utility company also sued to block The News Tribune from getting the documents via a public records request.

The utility company maintains that the records should be kept private because PSE’s contractors who performed the studies had labeled them critical infrastructure information and claimed a federal law prevented their release. Two Pierce County Superior Court judges had rejected this argument, and PSE had taken the matter to appeals court.

Before the appeals court could hear the case, The News Tribune independently obtained the records, asked engineering and legal experts to review them for security concerns, and posted the documents online.

The Friday PSE filing says this publication “rendered moot” the court fight against releasing them.

Also Friday, PSE won a legal fight to keep a different set of records secret.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary R. Tabor ruled in the utility company’s favor and granted an injunction to block release of a report from ongoing financial hearings over the LNG plant.

The News Tribune had requested the report from the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, which for a year has held a series of hearings about how the plant fits into PSE’s financial plans. The privately-held utility company serves 1.1 million electric and 790,000 gas customers in Washington, according to its website.

Tabor’s court order said he found the utility “likely to prevail” in a trial over its claims the report is confidential as a mediation document and a trade secret. The News Tribune was not named in this lawsuit.

The case is due back in court in January.

Derrick Nunnally: 253-597-8693, @dcnunnally

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