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July 26, 2021

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Tribe, others decry Tacoma LNG ruling

Clean air agency finds project proposal meets all of its requirements

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TACOMA — One day after Puget Sound Clean Air Agency issued its decision on permitting for Puget Sound Energy’s LNG facility on the Tideflats, environmental groups and representatives of the Puyallup Tribe appeared Wednesday for a news conference opposing the decision.

Additionally, plans were announced by Todd Hay, president and founder of Advocates for a Cleaner Tacoma, a local environmental group, to file an appeal against the decision. More details on the appeal and those involved, Hay said, will be announced at a later date.

“We will continue to fight this,” he said.

Appeals to the PSCAA decision are filed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board in Olympia.

On Tuesday, the clean air agency announced it had completed its review of the LNG facility’s notice of construction application, including public comments, and “made a final determination that the proposal meets all the requirements of Agency Regulations I, II and III and should be approved.”

The agency’s executive director, Craig Kenworthy, issued a separate statement Tuesday. Kenworthy said that while approval of a permit application “is not an endorsement of a project,” the agency determined that “the application meets standards set by applicable laws and regulations as of when the application was submitted to the agency.”

Those speaking against the project on Wednesday expressed disappointment.

“We are especially disappointed that the agency continues to ignore the climate impacts of this project,” said Melissa Malott, executive director for nonprofit Citizens for a Healthy Bay, whose group moved from a position of neutrality to opposing the LNG facility last fall after the release of the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the project.

Michael Thompson, communications director for the Puyallup Tribe, also spoke at the press briefing Wednesday to deliver a statement from the Tribal Council. It called on the city of Tacoma, the State Department of Ecology and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission “to begin reviews of the project to take into account the substantial changes to the project since its initial permits were granted and that assess the project’s safety, and the impacts a catastrophic event would have on the surrounding communities.”

City says options limited

The City Attorney’s Office, in an emailed response to questions from The News Tribune later on Wednesday, listed its limitations in orchestrating another round of reviews.

“The City must act in accordance with WAC 197-11-600 (3) (b) and 197-11-620, which clearly state that the requirement to re-open a limited portion of SEPA for an SEIS can only be based on either actual data showing substantial changes to a proposal, such that the proposal is likely to have significant additional adverse environmental impacts, or by new factual information indicating a proposal has probable, newly discovered, significant adverse environmental impacts.”

It added: “The actual data showing substantial changes, and/or the new factual information about newly discovered impacts must be completely new, and the newly discovered or identified environmental impacts must not be within the range of alternatives and impacts already analyzed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).”

Further, “A total re-doing of the 2015 FEIS is not a legal option. Where substantial changes or new factual information meeting all the requirements of WAC 197-11-600 (3)(b) and 197-11-620 are identified, and a determination made that an SEIS is needed in the context of a new permit application, the scope of the SEIS is limited to study only the substantial changes or new factual information associated with new permitting.”

The statement also noted that “City staff have engaged neutral, professional third parties to assist in evaluating the Puyallup Tribe of Indians’ technical and legal analyses, and provide advice. When that evaluation is received by the City Council, the City will engage in additional government-to-government consultation with the tribe.”

LNG is promoted as a cleaner alternative to the bunker fuel used by marine vessels and as a way to lower greenhouse-gas emissions and reduce particulates in the air.

Those opposed contend it is just another polluting fossil fuel and should not be relied upon, even as a short-term option.

PSE, in a statement Tuesday, defended its project and maintained it will improve air quality at and around the Port of Tacoma.

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