Victory — Facing lawsuit, PSE withdraws permits authorizing expanded use of its risky, controversial LNG facility for marine fuel and LNG bunkering
Media contact: Zachary Pullin, WCA Communications Director (206) 639-3760
TACOMA, WA — In a significant win for the Puyallup Tribe, Puget Sound residents, and health and conservation groups who had opposed an expansion of a liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal in Tacoma, Puget Sound Energy announced that it is abandoning its permit from the City of Tacoma for the project.
The Tribe and community groups had appealed permits for the project to the Shoreline Hearings Board; the case had already been scheduled for an April Hearing. Rather than defend the permits in the litigation, PSE abandoned the project. After the City of Tacoma cancelled the permit, the parties agreed to dismiss the lawsuit. The appellants filed the order dismissing the case yesterday with the Washington Shorelines Hearings Board.
An alliance of conservation and health groups have worked closely with the Puyallup Tribe to fight the terminal since 2019. The groups included Advocates for a Cleaner Tacoma (ACT), Sierra Club, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Stand.Earth, and Washington Conservation Action, represented by Earthjustice.
While the LNG terminal has been operational since February 2022, the proposed expansion would have allowed new vessels and “bunkering barges” to load LNG to power their own ships or to transfer fuel to other ships. This risky new use of the terminal would have significantly altered the activities allowed at the terminal, essentially allowing LNG barges to act like floating gas stations, refueling other ships in the Salish Sea and beyond.
Because the City of Tacoma processed the project as a permit “revision” rather than a new permit, there was no public process or environmental review. Many Tacoma residents and Puyallup tribal members were unaware of the project until after it had been approved. Tribal members and residents expressed concerns about increased safety, health, environmental, cultural and climate impacts that would result from the expansion.
The appeals filed in December by the Tribe and Earthjustice argued that the city’s authorization violated the Shorelines Management Act, Tacoma’s city code, and the Washington State Environmental Policy Act.
Following are statements from the Puyallup Tribe and Earthjustice and its plaintiffs:
Puyallup Tribal Council: “The Puyallup Tribe is relieved that PSE finally cancelled what the Tribe continues to insist is an illegal request for a permit revision. The Tribe remains steadfast in its belief that not only is loading bunker barging on the Blair Waterway a new, and extremely dangerous, use that has not been evaluated for safety or other environmental impacts on the Blair Waterway, but that use of the revision process to its long past expired original Shorelines Substantial Development permit was illegal. The Tribe, its members, and the citizens of Tacoma have a right to a full evaluation of the dangerous proposal to load bunker barges with potentially explosive LNG to be transported around Puget Sound.”
Keith Curl-Dove, Fossil Fuel Campaign Manager, Washington Conservation Action: “For nearly a decade, The Puyallup Tribe of Indians have held strong in fierce opposition to the expansion of LNG in Tacoma — their traditional homelands. Because of their leadership and our long-standing coalition supporting this fight, our communities will not be bound to this bad LNG proposal and worsening health outcomes for our neighbors. This is a huge win not just for the Tacoma community and Commencement Bay, but for the whole of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea’s people and wildlife. We are excited to continue imagining together a healthy, safe and just future free of fossil fuels.”
Earthjustice Senior Attorney Jan Hasselman, representing the coalition of environmental and health groups: “We applaud this decision by PSE to reverse course. The world is facing a climate crisis and Washington is trying to do everything it can to shift away from fossil fuels like LNG. Nobody wants tankers filled with explosive fuel in Puget Sound.”
Kendra Ulrich, Transportation Campaign Director at Stand.earth: “Puget Sound Energy’s proposed liquefied fossil gas expansion for fueling oceangoing ships would have been a climate catastrophe. Burning liquefied fossil gas as a marine fuel worsens the climate impact from the heavily polluting shipping sector by a staggering 70-82%. The PSE LNG facility is already a huge risk to public health and safety in Tacoma. The rollback of these expansion plans is cause for celebration. We urge PSE and the Port of Tacoma to follow in the footsteps of ports in the US and globally by investing in infrastructure for zero emission vessel fuels and technologies.”
Twylia Westling, Advocates for a Cleaner Tacoma: “Puget Sound Energy promised over and over that if it wanted to expand the project to allow LNG bunkering, it would trigger a new permit and new environmental review. Our home in Tacoma should not be a sacrifice zone for fossil fuel interests and a hub for LNG fuel.”
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