Dozens of activists from around the region traveled to Renton Wednesday for a public hearing on Puget Sound Energy’s latest 20-year energy blueprint. The protesters say the utility needs to do more to get off of fossil fuels sooner.
Members of the Puyallup Tribe led a noontime rally outside the hearing. They burned sage, drummed and chanted a warrior song as they called on Puget Sound Energy to do more for the climate.
The tribe was joined by groups including 350 Tacoma and the Sierra Club, who all say they want the utility to provide a path toward a 100 percent clean and renewable energy grid.
PSE provides electricity to much of the region, but unlike Seattle City Light, it relies on coal power from Montana for about a third of its load. PSE plans to shut down two of those plants by 2022, but expects to continue using the other two indefinitely.
Protesters object to this plan. They brought in representatives from Montana, who urged switching to wind power instead.
Of more immediate local concern is PSE’s construction of a liquefied natural gas plant in Tacoma, which the tribe and others have been fighting. Opponents are worried about potential safety and environmental risks to the tribe and other local residents.
Teshay Fire-Thunder says seeing more of the community joining the opposition is encouraging. And she celebrated the recent decision by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to require in-depth analysis of all the greenhouse gas emissions that would be caused by the plant, not just those on site.
“I danced. I said yes, finally they’re going to have to answer,” she said. “Because you can’t continue to keep taking from the earth and expect her to be okay with it.”
Earlier in the day, a committee of Seattle City Council members met with Puyallup Tribe leaders about the issue. The committee passed a resolution opposing the LNG facility in Tacoma and urging the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to reject its permit application.
Puget Sound Energy says it stands by the project. Spokesman Grant Ringel said the plant will provide much cleaner fuel for ships in the Port of Tacoma and prevent more costly investments in pipelines.
The utility says it is confident it will fulfill the permitting requirements because the plant is designed to reduce emissions. The new study may be a disappointing delay, but PSE is confident it will ultimately clear the additional hurdles.
Regarding the general plans outlined in its 20-year energy blueprint (formally called its “integrated electric and natural gas resource plans”), Puget Sound Energy says it's a required survey of current market conditions, not a purchasing plan. Ringel said the utility is is well on its way to providing cleaner energy and points out it began investing heavily in wind power more than a decade ago.
PSE’s most recent report shows roughly nine percent of its electricity comes from wind and nearly a third from hydroelectric dams.