Halt LNG plant, respect Puyallup tribal concerns

Puyallup Tribe of Indians council chairman Bill Sterud.
Puyallup Tribe of Indians council chairman Bill Sterud. Courtesy photo

The Puyallup Tribe of Indians opposes the location of the proposed liquefied natural gas plant on the Tacoma Tideflats. The LNG plant would be sited within feet of the Puyallup Tribe’s Reservation, schools and residences.

The Tideflats are culturally important to the Tribe and provide rare fish habitat and shellfish recovery nurseries for species integral to our treaty-protected fishing rights. The area in and around the Port of Tacoma has been our home for thousands of years.

The Puyallup people ceded most of our territory to the United States in the Treaty of Medicine Creek in 1854, but we reserved certain aboriginal lands (later granted to us as a reservation by presidential executive orders), and we expressly fought for and retained our fishing rights, including those on lands that were ceded.

Our reservation is all that we have left of our aboriginal homeland, and it cannot be replaced.

Protecting our way of life has not been an easy accomplishment, and the proposed LNG plant poses significant and potentially catastrophic threats not just to our fishing rights and resources, but to our homeland, people and neighbors.

We have been told that the plant would produce approximately 250,000 gallons of liquefied gas, daily, with capacity for up to 500,000 gallons. An eight-million-gallon storage tank would be built and located on the site. A new pipeline would be required to convey the gas.

Puget Sound Energy has told the public that the plant poses minimal to no risks and that the company has conducted a thorough environmental review.

PSE officials point to their notification of neighbors living within 400 feet of the construction area as an example of transparency, yet the emissions from a leak would impact communities far beyond 400 feet.

They claim that computer models will help them direct a toxic cloud or plume, yet no matter where it is directed, everything in its path will be exposed.

Additionally, a “model” is not preventative, and it is not a plan. Potential accidents or sabotage would be addressed by providing additional resources for the Tacoma Fire Department. But even the most robust mitigation efforts are never 100-percent successful.

PSE has failed to meet all the permitting requirements of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and other agencies. This does not give us confidence PSE will do everything it can to prevent accidents or incidents.

It is another example of the gulf between their understanding and ours of the magnitude and importance of the decision about whether to go forward with this facility.

Allowing PSE to proceed as it has, without all proper permits in hand, sets a dangerous precedent and weakens legal protections for our natural resources and environment.

The Puyallup Tribe and our community demand a responsible and comprehensive assessment – one that meets the level of risk posed by this project.

Even the Final Environmental Impact Statement states that “the Project does introduce a major new risk factor into an area with one of the City’s lowest emergency response times.”

We need an assessment and analysis that adequately reflect the level of risk this project poses to the health and safety of Puget Sound, our region, our communities and our families.

Until that responsibility is satisfied, all work on this proposed plant should be stopped.

Bill Sterud has served on the Puyallup Tribal council for more than 30 years, taking the role of chairman and vice chair on several occasions. He was most recently re-elected in 2016.