A state appeals court has upheld the issuance of a key permit for the liquified natural gas plant being built on Tacoma’s Tideflats.
A three-judge panel from the Division 1 Court of Appeals rejected arguments by the Puyallup Tribe that Tacoma erred in November 2015 when it issued to Puget Sound Energy what’s called a “shoreline substantial development permit” for the plant.
The tribe, which opposes the plant on environmental and cultural grounds, appealed the city’s decision to the state’s Shorelines Hearing Board. The board upheld the issuance of the permit, so the tribe took the case to court, saying the shorelines board had erred as well.
Tribal lawyers argued, among other things, that environmental concerns were not properly addressed and mitigated.
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In a unanimous decision issued May 14, the appeals court panel upheld the shorelines board's decision.
"In sum, we reject all of the Tribe's challenges to the board's decision," Chief Presiding Judge Michael Spearman wrote in the decision. "The board's findings are supported by substantial evidence and the findings, in turn, support the board's conclusions of law."
Puyallup Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud issued a statement on the ruling Wednesday.
"We are disappointed with the ruling, which could lead to further degradation of treaty-protected resources if the project moves forward," he said. "We will continue to fight for our homelands and tribal members."
The plant and its 8-million-gallon tank are under construction on 30 acres between the Blair and Hylebos waterways. Plans call for natural gas to be piped to the facility. Once there, the gas will be liquified for use as fuel, mainly in ocean-going vessels as a replacement for diesel.
The plant still faces regulatory hurdles that could delay its opening, including an additional environmental review ordered in January by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
The uncertainty has led TOTE Maritime, which would be the plant's main customer, to delay the conversion of its ships' engines to run on LNG fuel.