Seattle politicians are wading into the debate over a controversial liquefied natural gas plant that’s being built on Tacoma’s Tideflats.
While construction of the plant is underway in the Port of Tacoma, members of the Seattle City Council have said more fossil-fuel infrastructure is bad for the region and will negatively impact people living in Seattle as well as those living near the facility, including members of the Puyallup Tribe. They’ve also said the LNG facility would have a disproportionate impact on tribal lands and that the tribe wasn’t adequately consulted when the project was proposed and first permitted.
The Seattle City Council will consider a resolution at its Monday meeting that says it’s “deeply concerned” about the expansion of fossil fuels. The resolution says the council is “specifically troubled by the proposed siting of a new liquefied natural gas facility by Puget Sound Energy in Tacoma.”
In a meeting Wednesday, Seattle City Council members sat down with members of the Puyallup Tribal Council, who have been vocal in their opposition to the plant. It was the first time the two governments sat as co-equals at a council committee meeting, said Councilwoman Debora Juarez, who grew up on the Puyallup reservation and is a member of the Blackfeet Nation tribe. Juarez chairs the committee on Civic Development, Public Assets and Native Communities.
“What affects Seattle affects Tacoma, and what affects Tacoma affects Seattle,” Puyallup tribal council member Annette Bryan said at the meeting. “Seattle and Tacoma specifically are not that far from each other. Our ancestral home lands went well beyond any boundary that was put upon us, so we absolutely think it’s relevant that the city of Seattle is standing with us and supporting us, and we would hope the city of Tacoma would do the same thing too.
“The LNG facility is being set on our ancestral tidelands, we have to protect it and we will protect it — it cannot be replaced.”
On Wednesday, Seattle Councilwoman Lorena González addressed criticism that her city shouldn’t weigh in on a project being built in Tacoma.
“It’s really disappointing to read messages where fellow elected officials are really, really wanting to make this seem as though it’s not our jurisdiction to speak up about climate and climate change and what are sovereign rights of another government entity,” González said. “So I really am appreciative of y’all’s willingness to join us today and meet with us in a very public setting and share with us why this facility is of real, deep and profound concern to you all.”
For her part, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards said she appreciates the concern.
“If the language had been different, maybe I’d have a different opinion, but them expressing their concern, I certainly appreciate it,” Woodards said, adding that no one from the Seattle council reached out to her directly about the resolution. “I think they certainly have a right to share their concerns, and that’s what they did.”
An initial resolution against the LNG plant was first brought to the full council in January by Councilwoman Kshama Sawant but was referred back to the committee level. That version had stronger language. It opposed the LNG plant and urged the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to reject its permit application. That application is being delayed after the clean air agency announced last month it will require an extra environmental review of the greenhouse gases that will be emitted over the life cycle of the project, both upstream and downstream of the plant.
If the newer version of the LNG resolution passes the full council Monday, it will urge the clean air agency to do a better job consulting with tribes and engaging them on matters related to PSE’s LNG plant application. The agency would also be urged to “collaborate with regional mayors, leaders, and tribes to address the growing impact of climate change,” as well as promote investments in clean energy to reduce the region’s dependence on fossil fuels.
The resolution also asks the clean air group to include an examination of fracking in its supplemental environmental review for the plant, since some of the natural gas is expected to come from fracked sources. It also would ask the agency to provide information on the environmental impacts of any proposed project that could affect tribal land prior to any hearings on the projects.
The facility being built by Puget Sound Energy would produce 250,000 gallons of liquified natural gas 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 most ships run on. Critics of the project, including the Puyallup Tribe, have said the plant would be dangerous and dirty, and have said it’s being built without consulting the tribe.
Earlier this month, the Puyallup Tribe and leaders from 14 other Northwest tribes called on Gov. Jay Inslee to stop the construction of the LNG plant until an environmental review is complete “and all permit requirements are satisfied.”