The Puyallup tribe has won the latest battle in the years long fight over construction of a new Tacoma LNG plant in Washington state.
Permit approval of the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plant in Tacoma, WA has been stalled, pending further review of the greenhouse gas emissions and impact upon air quality in the surrounding region.
The delay was received as a victory by environmentalists who have campaigned against the $275 million LNG plant, several of whom were arrested in Dec. 2017, after climbing into the construction site in the Port of Tacoma and chaining themselves to a crane.
Members of the Puyallup tribal council have led the protests and objections to construction, for several years, citing potential threat to both the water and air quality on tribal land. One of the first issues raised was the potential threat of construction upon a former Superfund site, and whether doing so may unleash toxins into the waterways, thereby impacting the salmon run.
“[It] poses significant and potentially catastrophic threats not just to our fishing rights and resources, but to our homeland, people and neighbors,” Puyallup Tribal Council Chairman Bill Sterud wrote in a column for The (Tacoma) News Tribune on Dec. 10, 2017.
On the first day of the legislative session this January, seven indigenous women from various Washington tribes occupied the front lawn of the capitol building in Olympia to urge legislators to stand against the proposed LNG plant and other fracking-related industries.
Further review of potential environmental impact of Tacoma LNG plant required.
On Jan. 24, 2018, Puget Sound Clear Air Agency (PSCAA) submitted a notice that called for a more extensive analysis of the emissions that the LNG production would incur.
“Further review of the information supporting your application and the [Final Environmental Impact Statement] has led to the conclusion that supplemental analysis of GHGs is necessary and as such, the processing of your NOC application will be on hold while we complete the SEIS,” the notice read.
The greenhouse gas emissions on-site were previously calculated, but this additional review, called a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, will analyze the life-cycle of emissions and their impacts upon the surrounding area, both downstream and upstream from the plant. This informs the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) which is considered by Washington State when issuing permits.
Puget Sound Energy and LNG plants.
Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is the utility company developing this plant on a 30-acre plot of Port of Tacoma land. They began a 25-year lease in 2014, at a price of $1.75 million a year during construction and $2.5 million a year when the plant becomes operational.
There are 115 LNG plants already in operation in the U.S., according to records of the federal Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. At these facilities, natural gas is condensed through cold temperatures and turned into a liquid form.
At the Port of Tacoma, the PSE plant will produce an estimated 250,000 gallons of LNG each day, according to The News Tribune. The annual production capacity is more than 90 million gallons of liquid gas.
LNG is praised for creating less pollution than marine-bunker fuel, a common alternative for the large freighter ships containing a toxic diesel-mix. Currently, there are two Totem Ocean Trailer Express ships which plan to transition to LNG for their trip from Tacoma to Anchorage, Alaska.
Despite being a lower-emissions alternative, the fracking correlated with LNG production has drawn opposition from many environmentalists. And it presents some additional risks near the site of the plant.
The most concerning possibilities in the case of a gas spill are pool fires and vapor clouds, according to a U.S. Department of Energy commissioned study.
Public concern has also touched upon the ‘blast zone’ of the plant, which is located in northeast Tacoma. But PSE reports claim that any potential fires or blasts would not exceed the boundaries of the plant.
LNG plant rallies activists and politicians.
The factors and plausible impacts of LNG production have been volleyed between opposing groups in Tacoma for several years. The issuance of the permit delay this month energizes those challenging construction, which is already in progress.
“We have made it clear from the beginning that this project has not been fully evaluated and poses significant safety and environmental risks to our tribal members and local residents,” Council Chairman Sterud said in a statement following the decision to seek supplemental review on Jan. 24.
“We are demanding that the City of Tacoma, Department of Ecology, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency demand PSE cease construction until the full environmental review of the project is completed and all permit requirements are satisfied,” it read.
Activists and members of the Puyallup Tribe continued to campaign this week, and rallied to speak at City Hall on Monday, January 29.
PSE will now proceed through the collection of with a PSCAA appointed consultant. If the SEISS results in a denied permit from PSAAA, the development of a LNG plant in this port could be halted entirely, costing PSE millions in the process.