The Tacoma LNG Facility
Puget Sound Energy is an energy company located in Washington state focused on providing a “safe, reliable, affordable energy service,”. (PSE), They are currently building an LNG, aka liquified natural gas, facility at the port of Tacoma. The purpose of the facility is to provide these “natural” energies for customers and fueling maritime transportations, as a more environmentally safe solution against climate change.
The PSE Proposal
Puget Sound Energy proposes that there are many benefits of the LNG facility. One being that it is a cleaner solution compared to diesel. Stating that switching to LNG will reduce emissions of sulphur by 100%, harmful diesel matter by 90%, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide by 90%, and carbon emissions by 35% (Port of Tacoma). Another benefit is that there is no impact to the Commencement Bay, while also reducing the risks of accidental spills and stormwater pollutions. PSE says that “If LNG were to spill during fueling, however, it would turn into a vapor that dissipates if exposed to air. It would have no lasting effect on our waterways or marine life” (Port of Tacoma). PSE also proposes while providing fuel to ships will also provide natural gas to residential and commercial customers.
While all these proposals may seem better for the future than diesel, in truth it does more harm to us. PSE argues that we need to have a present solution instead of waiting for years in the future for a carbon-free solution. They spent $40,000 per month on public advertising to argue that LNG is “a cleaner fuel than bunker fuel and there are not better alternatives at this time” (Cleaner Tacoma). However, Cleaner Tacoma explains that “the German-based MAN Energy Solutions expects to have the first fuel ammonia ship by 2022” (Cleaner Tacoma). This explains how PSE is lacking vision for the future, when in fact carbon-free ammonia ships are less than two years away.
The group 350Seattle argues, for example, that it will “lock us into decades of fossil fuel use, threaten local health and safety, and place a huge financial burden on PSE residential customers who will only receive a fraction of the benefit” (350Seattle). This shows that while PSE is right that this is a better solution, it still is not the complete solution we need for climate change. Even when PSE says that this plant benefits residential and commercial customers, it is violating the Puyallup tribe’s rights to the land and Salish sea through the Medicine Creek treaty. Also, the facility was built despite not having all the necessary permits beforehand and “despite the lack of legally mandated tribal consultation” (350Seattle).
The activist group 350 Seattle demonstrates that the city of Tacoma gave PSE an environmental impact study without any modelling of what could happen if the plant were to have an accident. This means residents do not know the degree to which they are put at risk in case of an accident or the 24-hours-a-day emissions of toxins and carcinogens. Studies have shown that these emissions can cause “birth defects, neurological disorders, respiratory issues, and asthma.” Even further, the permits only cover individual facilities and not the combinations of toxins of the neighboring facilities. Because the facilities are placed on tribal lands, this contributes to “historical racism and genocide.”
Finally, the residents of Tacoma are paying for almost half of the construction costs for the facility ($133 million). To make matters worse, if there were an accident such as an explosion PSE could declare bankruptcy which would lead to them not paying for the damages leaving residents the responsibility of the repairs.
Climate Justice Movement
This leads us to the bigger picture. While the climate justice movement aims for a future of a carbon-free society, companies such as PSE need to be changed and made liable for the things they do. There are many ways you could be involved. There have been protests near the facility’s construction site to shut it down. The Puyallup tribe have made a documentary called Ancestral Waters. Local tribes and with the addition of tens of thousands of people have signed a letter opposing the project. There has also been lots of social media coverage such as #FrackOffPSE #NoLNG253 #StandWithPuyallup #HonortheTreaties #EnvironmentalRacism.