Northwest tribes ask Gov. Inslee to halt construction of Tacoma LNG plant

The liquefied natural gas plant under construction by Puget Sound Energy in Tacoma, January 30, 2018.
The liquefied natural gas plant under construction by Puget Sound Energy in Tacoma, January 30, 2018. phaley@thenewstribune.com

The Puyallup Tribe and leaders from 14 other Northwest Tribes called on Gov. Jay Inslee to stop the construction of Puget Sound Energy’s liquefied natural gas plant on Tacoma’s Tideflats until an environmental review is complete “and all permit requirements are satisfied.”

Last week, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency called for additional environmental review of the proposed plant before it can get a required air permit, a move that the Puyallup Tribe and environmentalist groups heralded as a win in the fight against the plant.

That review process, called a supplemental environmental impact statement, is expected to take several months and will look at greenhouse-gas emissions that are created throughout the entire life cycle of the project. That’s expected to include the emissions created upstream and downstream of the facility.

“The decision reinforces what we have been saying all along — the process has been flawed since day one,” Puyallup Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud said in a statement. “And this week Governor Inslee rejected an oil terminal along the Columbia River because it posed serious risks to aquatic life. We now urge the governor to step up and protect the Puyallup Tribe’s treaty lands, waters and resources from the very real threats of the liquid gas plant.”

The facility being built by PSE would produce 250,000 gallons of LNG a day. A storage tank at the plant would hold 8 million gallons of LNG. Most of that would be sold to customers, including the shipping company TOTE Maritime. PSE also plans to use the tank’s contents as a backup supply for high-demand gas days.

PSE officials have repeatedly said LNG is a much cleaner-burning fuel than the bunker fuel that ships have historically run on. Critics of the project, including the Puyallup Tribe, have said the plant would be dangerous and dirty, and they have protested its construction on what was once tribal land, saying it’s being built without consulting the Puyallup Tribe.

A letter addressed to Inslee and signed by leaders from 14 tribes reiterated that there was no consultation with the Puyallup Tribe when planning for the LNG plant was underway. The letter said the LNG facility poses significant risks to human health and safety.

We stand with our brothers and sisters of the Puyallup Tribe in their fight to defend their treaty and their home,” the letter reads. “And as Governor, we urge you to take action and not allow corporate and financial interests to ignore the importance of tribal treaty rights and the safety of Washington State citizens.”

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud