Politics & Government

Mayor: PSE fight to keep records private ‘not a good look’

After hours of public testimony dominated by opponents of a liquified natural gas facility proposed for the Tacoma Tideflats, Mayor Marilyn Strickland shared some thoughts of her own to cheers from activists in the audience.

When Puget Sound Energy spokesman Grant Ringel — the lone voice in support of the facility who spoke at Tuesday’s City Council meeting — took to the lectern, protesters of the project scoffed and spoke over him. Ringel said safety is the first priority for PSE, especially when it comes to gas projects such as the one proposed for the Port of Tacoma, and said that any safety incident that might happen at the plant would be contained within its property lines.

“It is required that we are able to demonstrate through that process that whatever happens on the site, whether it be a pipe break or whether it be a roof of the tank collapsing, whatever might happen there, we have to study that and demonstrate that it is contained within the fence line,” Ringel said. “If we can’t prove that, we will not be able to operate the plant, and I think this is really important for that to be out there and to be considered.”

But Strickland, who normally does not respond during the council’s monthly citizens forum, countered him.

“PSE has spent a lot of time in court blocking information about safety, and that’s just not a good look,” Strickland said to raucous applause — and some gasps — from the audience. “This project is controversial, people are concerned about it, so I’m going to suggest that PSE have some kind of an event or open house and give yourselves the opportunity to talk about this project.”

Some people are going to oppose the LNG plant no matter what they hear from PSE, Strickland said, adding that she respects that. Others probably think the manufacturing of liquified natural gas could be a step in the right direction toward cleaner energy, but don’t think it should be near Northeast Tacoma, she said. PSE should get in front of all of those people and “at a minimum, let the public know exactly what this is,” Strickland said.

PSE sued The News Tribune and others to prevent the release of safety studies that contemplate the level of danger should a spill or other type of accident occur at the plant. PSE has proposed allowing access to the records only in person, and only to people who mail a nondisclosure agreement form to a post office box.

The News Tribune separately obtained those documents, which appear to back PSE’s assertion that hazards wouldn’t extend beyond the site’s property.

PSE also is suing the state Utilities and Transportation Commission to prevent the disclosure of other documents regarding the LNG plant.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud