In a victory this May, after years of determined protests by the Puyallup tribe and others, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency decided to order additional environmental review of a planned facility to produce and store eight million gallons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the Port of Tacoma, Wash. The study is expected to take up to two years.
Several permits also remain to be obtained for the high-risk facility, which is a project of Puget Sound Energy, a private utility company. Nevertheless, construction is already in progress, with a huge tank tower as tall as the Tacoma Dome visible. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not stepped in to halt the work, despite requests from the Puyallup Tribe. These have included a reminder from Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud to the Corps of its federal responsibility to safeguard Native resources protected by treaty or held in trust by the government.
The LNG site is adjacent to Indian land, mere feet from the Puyallups’ salmon restoration project. The tribe’s treaty right to be consulted was ignored, as were its fishing rights, which depend on clean water. The tribe has led the charge to stop the plant, sued over the violation of its treaty rights, led vigils, and held a 100-mile Save the Salish Sea walk.
Freedom Socialist Party candidate for U.S. Senate Steve Hoffman sides with the Puyallup Tribe and vehemently opposes the dangerous LNG plant, which would sacrifice the safety of the city’s population for private energy utility profits. Studies have found dozens of schools, homes and worksites within the blast zone of a possible plant explosion. (See www.FrackNo253.com.) And the facility is being built on the Tacoma Tideflats, a landfill that sits between two Superfund cleanup sites. Toxic chemicals capable of melting steel are already in the soil. LNG facilities emit pollutants as a matter of course, and allowing Puget Sound Energy to compound existing contamination would be outrageous.
Furthermore, much of the natural gas coming into the plant will be obtained through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which pollutes enormous amounts of fresh water, poisons ground water, and leaks methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Fracking produces two-thirds of the natural gas in the United States.
Steve Hoffman’s main Democratic opponent in the congressional race, Senator Maria Cantwell, has not opposed the Tacoma LNG plant. Cantwell supports both fracking and nuclear power in the name of “energy independence” and “national security.”
Hoffman points out that Senator Cantwell is on the Indian Affairs Committee, which should be protecting the sovereign rights of the Puyallup Tribe and other Native nations, not trampling them. He urges Cantwell to demand that the Corps of Engineers shut down the construction site now. Her silence telegraphs environmental racism and a defense of energy industry interests over the needs of our planet and its inhabitants.
With Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, Cantwell co-sponsored an omnibus energy bill called the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, yet to be voted on. Over 350 environmental organizations strongly opposed the legislation, considering it a disastrous blow to efforts to curtail climate change — and stop projects like the Tacoma LNG operation.
TOTE Maritime, the only customer signed up in advance with Puget Sound Energy (PSE), has recently announced it has postponed the retrofitting of its ships to use natural gas fuel until after 2021.
In other recent setbacks for PSE’s plans, two objectors sued successfully to force the plant’s emergency response plan to be made public, while exposing its serious inadequacy. During a May 2017 demonstration, six protesters with Tacoma Direct Action chained themselves to drill equipment and halted construction. Originally charged with felonies, two were recently found not guilty and charges against the other four were dismissed.
The Hoffman campaign applauds the victories won in this determined battle led by the Puyallup Tribe and area activists. For the sake of humanity’s future, a swift transition must be made away from fossil fuels and the drilling and fracking scarring our planet. Providing people with power, and how we do it, is too crucial for energy to be anything but a nonprofit, public industry. That means a nationalized industry under workers’ control — direct management by working people organized together.