LNG plant would cut greenhouse gases — if the fuel comes from Canada, report says

A long-awaited draft environmental report on the liquefied natural gas project on the Tacoma Tideflats was released Monday, and it came with a caveat.

Its findings — that overall greenhouse gas emissions in the area would be reduced as a result of the project — are directly tied to the plant getting fuel solely from British Columbia.

That detail is so important that the review recommended the source of fuel be a “required condition” for the plant’s future and in obtaining the air permit needed to construct the plant’s emissions and production components.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency in January ordered the supplemental environmental review to study the life cycle of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the plant.

The review was needed before Puget Sound Energy could get the air permit for the project.

The plant, under construction at East 11th Street and Alexander Avenue East, would hold up to 8 million gallons of LNG for natural gas customers and for maritime transport, including TOTE Maritime Alaska vessels.

The primary conclusion of the draft 212-page report was that using LNG produced by the plant would result in an overall decrease in emissions compared with not building the plant or upgrading the natural gas distribution system and “existing maritime petroleum fuels” continuing to be used.

That conclusion, the report stated, is valid only if “the sole source of natural gas supply to the facility is from British Columbia.”

It added that “the Notice of Construction Process” should include that requirement and that permit terms and conditions specify “how compliance ... will be demonstrated on a continuous basis.”

The draft noted that British Columbia has adopted “comprehensive drilling and production regulations” to cut methane emissions. As a result, the report stated, emissions from natural gas production in the United States “may be as much as five times higher than those for Canada.”

Contacted Monday by The News Tribune, representatives of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency declined to offer comments on the LNG project beyond the report itself.

As for PSE, spokesman Grant Ringel said, “We’re digging into the details today, but we feel the conclusion is consistent with our view of the project,” and that the project “will result in a net reduction of greenhouse gas.”

Asked about the requirement that natural gas for the plant come only from British Columbia, he said, “The vast majority comes from Canada, so we will move forward with the process given that dynamic.”

The plant has faced opposition from activists, environmentalists and The Puyallup Tribe.

Puyallup Tribal Council Chairman Bill Sterud issued a statement after the report was released, which coincided with Tacoma’s observance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day:

“This is an opportunity, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, for the Mayor and City Council to honor our renewed partnership,” he stated. “The Puyallup Nation’s flag now hangs at City Hall, which is located on Puyallup Tribal lands. It’s time for this City to act on meaningful government-to-government consultation with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. ...

“... the Tribe will review this document and determine our response. The Tribe remains deeply concerned around the true safety and environmental hazards this plant brings to our tribal members, homelands and people of Tacoma.”

TOTE Maritime, whose two Alaska vessels now run on marine bunker fuel, a diesel-based mix, plans to convert to LNG to fuel the ships’ cargo routes between Tacoma and Alaska to reduce pollution.

The conversion was delayed in May in light of permitting delays and the extra environmental review for the LNG plant.

“TOTE Maritime is appreciative of the PSCAA’s efforts to better understand the environmental impacts of the use of liquefied natural gas,” Grace Greene, president of TOTE Maritime Alaska, said in a statement released Monday.

“The environmental benefits of LNG are the reason we decided to convert our vessels to LNG back in 2012. We are reviewing the findings of the SEIS and look forward to participating in the public comment period and providing feedback as appropriate.”

Others also saw the new review as reinforcing support for LNG use in the area. “The conclusions drawn in the draft SEIS allow us to move forward with confidence that the maritime industry’s transition to LNG will result in a reduction of greenhouse gases and bring cleaner air for those who live and work near the port,” said Tacoma Port Commissioner Clare Petrich.

The clean air agency commissioned Ecology and Environment Inc. consultants to prepare the report. Life Cycle Associates LLC did the study’s greenhouse gas analysis. The draft report has been published online at www.pscleanair.org/460/Current-Permitting-Projects, which also includes the project’s timeline. (Click on SEIS tab for report)

Printed copies of the report also can be reviewed at Tacoma Public Library branches and at The Center at Norpoint (4818 Nassau Ave N.E.) in Tacoma.

Release of the draft starts a public comment period that runs through Nov. 21. All comments become part of the public record on the project.

Once the comment period ends, the clean-air agency will review the submissions and work with its consultant to come up with the final environmental impact statement, according to its website. The final report is scheduled for Feb. 1, according to the timeline.

“Once done, we can then go back to the air permit application,” said Steve Van Slyke, compliance director with Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell


How to send the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency comments on the draft environmental report:

By mail: Puget Sound Clean Air Agency ATTN: Public Comment on DSEIS, PSE LNG Project, 1904 Third Ave, Suite 105 Seattle, WA 98101

Fax: 206-343-7522

Email: publiccomment@pscleanair.org

In person: A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 30 in Tacoma. Sessions will be from 2-5 p.m. and from 6:30-10 p.m. at the Rialto Theater, 310 S. Ninth St. Representatives from the clean air agency, PSE, the Puyallup Tribe and others will be among those in attendance.