Let’s hope Inslee’s epiphany opposing Tacoma LNG plant is contagious

Visitors approach the 8-million-gallon holding tank at the liquefied natural gas plant under construction on the Tacoma Tideflats.
Visitors approach the 8-million-gallon holding tank at the liquefied natural gas plant under construction on the Tacoma Tideflats. News Tribune file photo, 2018

The Puyallup Tribe of Indians stands in opposition to the liquefied fracked gas project now under construction at the Port of Tacoma. Last week, we were proud to be joined in opposition by Gov. Jay Inslee.

We commend the governor for doing something that isn’t easy for anyone to do. He took a hard look at the facts and changed his mind. We applaud his leadership, and we invite others to evaluate the project with an open mind, too.

Anyone willing to consider the facts honestly should ask why the Tacoma Human Rights Commission opposes the project. Ask why the Washington Attorney General’s Office says portions of an official project review are “fictional.”

Ask why we are joined in opposition by 17 other Washington tribes, as well as nearly every major environmental group in the state, plus dozens of faith, social justice and human rights groups.

The answer is that the project is a disaster – of substance and of process.

The Puyallup Tribe is proud to have a larger community as its neighbors here in the Northwest. We oppose liquefied natural gas in Tacoma because we want to protect the Salish Sea and the people who live in this region.

We know climate change is already harming the Northwest, and we know scientists tell us we don’t have much time left to stop using fossil fuels.

The Tacoma Tideflats are the Puyallup people’s ancestral homeland. We have lived and flourished here since time immemorial, and we will be here for millennia to come. Yet we were never consulted about the LNG project – not where it should be built or how it should be reviewed or who should be at the table.

This was more than an oversight; it was a glaring violation of our legal rights.

LNG is extremely explosive, so facilities are usually sited far from population centers. But not in Tacoma. If this project were really such a benefit for the local community, why no one is proposing to build it in Seattle or Bellevue? This project is not safe.

We are appalled to see another dirty energy project under construction in the Tideflats even as the scientific consensus about the climate impact of fracked gas has been changing – for the worse. Backers allege it would reduce local air pollution from ships, but the benefit would be minuscule at best.

Why does Puget Sound Energy, a foreign-owned private utility, want to build the project? Consider that the CEO of PSE is also in senior leadership at the American Gas Association and that Tacoma LNG would be a big win for the industry. It would mean more gas imported from Canada, more fracking, more pipelines.

It would be expensive, too. PSE is trying to persuade state regulators to let it shift much of the project cost onto customers – local families and small businesses – who would use only 2 percent of the gas.

We want our homeland to once again be a place with clean water, safe for future generations. We oppose the LNG project because it is an insult to our rights and contrary to the values of the region.

We hope the governor will be an inspiration for others. Please look at the facts clearly and join us in opposition to this project.

Bill Sterud has served on the Puyallup Tribal Council for more than 30 years and today is its chairman. He represented the Tribe in negotiations that led to the Puyallup Land Claims Settlement in the late 1980s. Annette Bryan was elected to Tribal Council in 2016. She has a master of science degree in civil and environmental engineering and worked 10 years as a tribal coordinator at the Environmental Protection Agency.