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After waiting more than a year for our day in court, Washington Environmental Council alongside the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and four environmental partner organizations, wrapped up two weeks of arguments in our challenge against Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facility on the Tacoma Tideflats. The Puyallup Tribe has fiercely opposed this massive new fracked gas facility on their ancestral territory–WEC and our partners in the Power Past Fracked Gas coalition are proud to fight with them to stop this dangerous project.

The 8 million gallon LNG facility has faced years of opposition from the Puyallup Tribe and the local community citing climate, health, and safety concerns. While PSE has continuously sought to mislead the public that their facility represents “clean energy” progress, the review process itself has been met with community outrage over the use of outdated science, failure to consult with the Puyallup Tribe, and PSE’s two years of defiant and illegal construction of the facility prior to receiving required permits. 

The goal of our appeal is to invalidate PSE’s air permits issued by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) on the grounds that they were based on flawed and inadequate analysis that dramatically underestimated the climate impacts of the project.

“Both the science and the policy tell us that greenhouse gas emissions need to immediately begin a sharp trajectory downward, but in this EIS the agency ignored the science and the policy responses…its like a pack a day smoker, whose been told they need to cut cigarettes or die, declaring everything is fine because they’ve cut down from 20 cigarettes a day to 19. That is neither an honest or a useful way to look at the problem.”

In his opening statement, Earthjustice Attorney Jan Hasselman described the fundamental flaw with the Agency’s approach.

While PSCAA joined PSE in defending the legality of their permitting decision this week, they also seemed unwilling to defend the merits of the project itself, arguing that, “Requiring the agency to “do the right thing” according to the appellants is not a legal standard…the rule of reason standard is not a referendum on whether this Board thinks that this project is a good idea…it is not the Board’s role to rule on the wisdom of the proposal.”  

The Puyallup Tribal Council has harshly criticized PSCAA permitting process and role in moving this dangerous project forward, stating that, “PSCAA is protecting its own officials at public expense while communities of color have to face the brunt of the health and social impacts. The agency continues to defend policies and decisions that promote systematic racism. PSCAA is still ignoring the impacts to the Tribe, its members, and the public. The people deserve better.”

If we are successful in the appeal, PSCAA would be required to conduct a new environmental analysis and permitting process in order for PSE to operate the facility. We expect a decision this summer. 

In the meantime, PSE continues its pursuit to open and operate the facility before our case has been decided, applying to the Washington Utilities Commission to approve a contract to begin operating in May. Going so far as to lie and obfuscate about the project through ad campaigns targeting children, including an Earth Week coloring book competition using cringe-worthy and harmful tactics similar to the tobacco industry. 

While we await a decision this summer, WEC and our partners will uphold tribal sovereignty and stand with water protectors to prevent this facility from ever turning on. We cannot build a clean energy future by investing in dirty energy. 

Keep up to date on the latest news and how to get involved here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 27, 2021

CONTACT:
Zachary DeWolf, Communications Director, Washington Environmental Council, 206-771-4207, zachary@wecprotects.org

Puyallup Tribe & Environmental Advocates Conclude Trial Against Puget Sound Energy’s Illegal Tacoma LNG Facility

On same day Tacoma decides future of fossil fuels on Tideflats

TACOMA, WA — On April 27, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, along with five environmental organizations, represented by Earthjustice, conclude their arguments challenging Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) permits for the Tacoma Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility in a hearing before the Pollution Control Hearings Board. The appeal is attempting to invalidate PSE’s air permits issued by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA), on the grounds that they were issued based on flawed and inadequate analysis that dramatically underestimated the climate impacts of the project. If advocates are successful in their appeal, PSCAA would be required to conduct a new environmental analysis and permitting process in order for PSE to operate the facility. A decision in the litigation is expected late summer. 

The community groups brought forward a number of expert witnesses that highlighted the deep flaws in the environmental review for the PSE LNG project, an environmental review that somehow concluded that the project would result in a net improvement in greenhouse gas emissions. The experts methodically broke down how the project would, in fact, lock in decades of new fossil fuel uses and hinder a shift to clean energy alternatives. The experts also explained how changes in the project design raised serious safety concerns, which were ignored by regulators. 

The Tacoma LNG refining facility, located on the Tacoma Tideflats on the ancestral territory of the Puyallup Tribe, is capable of refining and storing 8 million gallons of LNG. The project has faced years of fierce opposition from the Puyallup Tribe and the local community who cite climate, health, and safety concerns with the facility as well as permitting agencies’ failure to consult with the Puyallup Tribe and PSE’s willful misrepresentation of the facility as clean energy and illegal construction of the facility prior to receiving proper permits. 

“Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s behavior has been as bad as PSE’s. PSCAA is a public agency and is supposed to act in the public interest, but instead it is treating PSE like a partner as it tries to keep information secret and defend its permit. The public has a perfect right to see the communications between this public agency and PSE regarding the erroneous test results that the agency accepted,” shared by Puyallup Tribal Council as an official statement on PSE’s and PSCAA’s conduct in the Tacoma LNG permit process and recent hearing. “PSCAA is protecting its own officials at public expense, while communities of color have to face the brunt of the health and social impacts. The agency continues to defend policies and decisions that promote systematic racism. PSCAA is still ignoring the impacts to the Tribe, its members, and the public. The people deserve better.”

“As we presented throughout this hearing, PSE lies,” said Jan Hasselman, attorney, Earthjustice Northwest. “Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure at the exact moment when we need to be abandoning it is not just wrong–it also violates the law. We look forward to a ruling in our favor in our appeal” 

“The trial clearly demonstrated that LNG is simply the wrong direction,” shared Todd Hay, President, Advocates for a Cleaner Tacoma. “With world leaders recently gathering to express their commitments to eliminating carbon emissions, we cannot afford this ill-conceived project. We hope the PCHB recognizes the urgency of the situation and provides us a favorable ruling.”

“The Biden administration just set a goal of absolute zero-emission shipping by 2050,” extolled Bradley Thompson, RN, Behavioral Health. “This LNG facility not only jeopardizes our ability to meet that goal, it risks the health of vulnerable frontline communities and communities upstream for decades to come.”

The conclusion of the trial comes on the same day as the City of Tacoma will hold a virtual Public Hearing on permanent regulations for fossil fuels on the Tideflats. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the recommendations developed by the Tacoma Planning Commission which would prohibit new fossil fuel facilities and the expansion of existing facilities, such as the US Oil refinery and–if it were ever to become operational–PSE’s Tacoma LNG facility. Since 2017, the City of Tacoma has had Interim Regulations in place that paused new fossil fuel facilities, while continuing to allow existing facilities to expand–a loophole that has facilitated expansions at SeaPort Sound bulk oil terminal and been met by widespread community outcry. 

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Power Past Fracked Gas is a coalition of Pacific Northwest health, environmental, faith, and community groups that believe in the power of clean energy and the value of clean water. We oppose new fracked gas infrastructure that locks our region into decades of continued reliance on dirty energy and harmful projects. We support and build on the work of ally coalitions Power Past Coal and Stand Up to Oil. 

350 Eastside / 350 Eugene / 350 PDX / 350 Seattle / 350 Salem, OR / Bark / Beyond Toxics / Cascadia Wildlands / Center for Sustainable Economy / Columbia Riverkeeper / Earth Ministry / Food and Water Watch / Oregon League of Conservation Voters / Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club / Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility / Native Daily Network / Protectors for Salish Sea / Redefine Tacoma / Rogue Climate / Rogue Riverkeeper / Signal Fire Arts / Stand.earth / Stop Fracked Gas PDX / Vashon Climate Action Group / Washington State Chapter, Sierra Club / Washington Environmental Council / Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility

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