Last month, as part of our participation in the Power Past Fracked Gas coalition, we put Puget Sound Energy (PSE) on trial in Washington’s People’s Court of Public Opinion to hold the company accountable for its dangerous fracked gas facility in Tacoma.
This facility and this company has a long history of harm. Located on Tacoma’s Tideflats on the ancestral territory of the Puyallup Tribe, the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Facility is capable of refining and storing 8 million gallons of LNG. Since first proposing the facility in 2015, PSE has sought to mislead the public by defining this massive fracked gas refinery as “clean energy,” claiming that it would reduce emissions.
At the same time, PSE has simply moved ahead with building out the facility, even before all its permits and agreements were complete.
In response to this polluting project and egregious conduct, WEC joined the Puyallup Tribe and four other environmental partners to challenge the facility. After a year of delay, multiple days of oral arguments will begin on April 12th.
Our joint appeal directly confronts PSE’s dangerous claims that a new major fossil fuel facility benefits the climate and has the potential to invalidate PSE’s air permits, which were based on deeply flawed analysis that grossly underestimates the facility’s climate impacts.On this point, the Washington Attorney General agrees.
In January 2021, the AG’s office filed an amicus brief in support of our lawsuit and stating clearly that, “by obscuring the Project’s actual climate impact and omitting the speculative nature of its assumptions, the FSEIS failed in its primary purpose under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).”
In advance of the upcoming hearing before the Pollution Control Hearing Board on our appeal, WEC and our partners needed to highlight the full arguments we believe must be part of the process. While our Board appeal is focused specifically on the irreversibly harmful climate impacts of the Tacoma LNG facility, the mock trial sought to bring attention to PSE’s broader pattern of appalling actions and ignoring tribal and community concerns, recklessly pursuing new fossil fuel infrastructure, and actively impeding state and local policy efforts to transition away from fracked gas and toward clean energy.
Over 140 Washingtonians tuned in to hear evidence and act as “jurors.” Based on the overwhelming evidence presented, the jury found PSE guilty on four charges:
- Criminal neglect of treaty rights and perpetuating environmental racism
- Gross negligence and endangering the public
- False advertising, deceiving the public, corrupting the minds of impressionable youth
- Wanton climate destruction and impeding the transition to clean energy
These mock trial charges reflect community concerns and the failure of the permitting agencies’ and PSE to consult with the Puyallup Tribe, inadequate safety measures and endangerment to nearby residential neighborhoods as well as the roughly 1,500 people detained at the Northwest Detention Center also located on the Tacoma Tideflats.
As of March 2021, PSE is nearing the completion of the development of their LNG facility. This completion in spite of illegally constructing the facility two years before receiving all necessary approvals and permits. Plus, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) has issued a notice of violation that PSE continues to ignore.
In concert with the PSE’s egregious actions around the facility, PSE has proactively misled the public for years through shameless promotion of fracked gas as a safe and clean solution, including spending millions on a public relations campaign known as the “Partnership for Energy Progress” and notoriously marketing fracked gas to kids in a Big Tobacco-esque campaign involving “Natural Gas Town” coloring books and a cartoon mascot problematically called “Don Fuego.”
Despite all these bullying and misleading tactics of PSE, we simply cannot build a clean energy future by investing in dirty energy–no matter what Don Fuego says. So we plan to stop PSE in court before they ever flip the switch.
That is why, in the Court of Public Opinion, PSE was found guilty. And the reason Washington Environmental Council and our partners continue to fight.
Our trial starts on April 12th–join the Power Past Fracked Gas coalition for a Virtual Watch Party to hear the opening arguments and learn more about how to take action against this dangerous facility.