The Puyallup Tribe says it will not go along with plans to put a liquified natural gas facility on a site at the Port of Tacoma. The site is located on land that lies sandwiched between parcels on its reservation.
The tribe says its biggest concern is that its reservation lies in an urban area. And the heart of that is the Port of Tacoma.
John Weymer is a spokesman for the Puyallup. He says there have been several minor spills of fossil fuel oils coming in on trains over the past few years.
“So we’re very concerned, about the environment, oil spills. And then, on top of that, adding LNG and methanol? We just don’t want to be the fuel depot to the world,” Weymer said.
He says that’s why they have filed suit under the Clean Water Act. Weymer says pipelines for liquified natural gas -- or any fracked fuel -- are too risky, especially those referenced in the suit, because they are located on the shores of Puget Sound or in the heart of their reservation.
“We don’t want to take any chances. They are slim, but there are chances of spills, explosions and so on — so, it’s just, no,” Weymer said.
Puget Sound Energy says it has done extensive environmental review and that the project is permitted correctly and is safe. The utility says natural gas is cleaner than the bunker fuel it will be replacing and the Tote shipping company wants the fuel for its natural gas powered ships.
Utility spokesman Grant Ringel says Tote is replacing dirty bunker fuel with LNG on many of its ships. Bunker fuel is worse than diesel in terms of the particulate and carbon pollution it puts in the air.
“It virtually eliminates the spill risk from bunker fuel because liquefied natural gas simply evaporates. It’s non-toxic. It simply evaporates if in fact the unlikely spill happens,” he said.
Ringel says the risk of environmental catastrophe is much lower with pipelines. He says the permitting process for the facility has been transparent. Anyone who wants to see the process online can go to the utility’s project website.
A spokeswoman from office of Tacoma's City Attorney said the suit filed most recently has to do with an appeal of the shoreline permit and at this time, the city does not have a court date for the next level of the legal action. The city also wants to the public to see its frequently asked questions site about the project.