Joined in solidarity by 14 Northwest Tribes, the Puyallup Tribal Council called on Gov. Jay Inslee Feb. 2 to halt construction of Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility that is endangering Puyallup tribal members, treaty-protected homelands, resources and surrounding communities.
“Last week the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency called for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to look at the greenhouse gas effects of a liquid natural gas plant on our region. The decision reinforces what we have been saying all along – the process has been flawed since day one,” Puyallup Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud said. “And this week Governor Inslee rejected an oil terminal along the Columbia River because it posed serious risks to aquatic life. We now urge the Governor to step up and protect the Puyallup Tribe’s treaty lands, waters and resources from the very real threats of the liquid gas plant.”
Supporting tribes contend that the City of Tacoma and Port of Tacoma bypassed normal regulatory processes and rushed through an EIS without proper consultation with the Puyallup Tribe and all the tribes that have an interest in the treaty protected resources that are threatened by this Project.
“Tribes stand united with the Puyallup in opposition to this LNG plant that threatens the homelands of the Puyallup people and the citizens of Tacoma,” said Leonard Forsman, president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) and Suquamish Tribal Chairman. Suquamish and 13 other tribes sent a letter to Inslee supporting the Puyallup Tribe’s demand that PSE cease construction of the LNG plant.
“Governments at all levels must conduct proper consultation with our sovereign tribal nations before pushing through projects like the LNG plant,” said Forsman. “A threat to one tribe’s treaty rights is a threat to us all.”
The Puyallup Tribe has called on the City of Tacoma, Department of Ecology, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) to demand PSE cease construction until a full environmental review of the project is completed and all permit requirements are satisfied. They have also requested that the Army Corps of Engineers step in as the federal trustee responsible for upholding the tribe’s treaty rights.
“Our treaties and our way of life are at risk from corporations more interested in profits than the protection of our lands, resources and people,” Chairman Sterud said. “We demand that PSE cease construction until all tribal consultation and public participation requirements are met and all permit requirements are satisfied. The environmental impacts of the construction and operation of the LNG plant must be adequately analyzed and this information must be released to the public.”
The proposed LNG plant in Tacoma, already under construction without required permitting and environmental review, includes an 8 million gallon liquefied natural gas storage tank and will produce approximately 250,000 gallons of fuel each day for use or transport. The fuel would be transported by truck and ships and used in PSE’s natural gas distribution system during high demand periods. The plant will take raw methane gas and convert it to a liquid form through a purification and cooling process to allow for the storage of greater volumes of gas. The plant will also be capable of converting the liquid gas back into its gaseous form for use by PSE. Mishandling of that process can lead to leaks and explosions. On March 31, 2014 a 14.5 million gallon tank at an LNG plant near the Tri-Cities exploded, injuring five workers and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes. The tribe and environmental groups note that the blast zone of the Tacoma LNG plant includes tribal homelands, Tacoma residents, schools, day-care centers and an immigration detention center.
“The LNG facility poses a very real risk to our ancestral homeland,” said Chairman Sterud. “We demand that the appropriate consultation take place and that our treaty rights and our people are protected.”
The tribal leaders’ letter is as follows:
Dear Governor Inslee,
We stand with the Puyallup Tribe in its fight to protect its people, land and water from the devastating effects of Puget Sound Energy’s Liquefied Natural Gas facility. Developments such as the liquefied gas storage facility require government-to-government consultation with our sovereign tribal nations. The City of Tacoma’s failure to properly consult with the Puyallup Tribe threatens the health, culture and livelihood of thousands of tribal members.
We applaud the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s requirement to complete a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). We are asking for your leadership and support to join us in demanding that the City of Tacoma, Department of Ecology, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the PSCAA require PSE to cease all construction until the full environmental review of the project is completed and all permit requirements are satisfied. We join the Puyallup Tribe in calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to step in as the federal trustee responsible for protecting the Puyallup Tribe’s trust and treaty protected resources.
The tribes of Washington have a long history of standing together to defend our lands and waters. We have sent a powerful message to state and federal governments, and industry, that we will not tolerate corporate development at any cost. Tribal unity led to a huge victory for sovereignty – the denial of permits for coal terminals at Cherry Point and Longview.
We have seen what happens when development at any cost takes place. U.S. tribes joined First Nations of Canada in strong opposition to the Keystone Pipeline. In November 2017, 210,000 gallons of crude oil leaked near the Lake Traverse Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe of South Dakota. Tribes have long warned that it is not if, but when, disaster will strike and threaten our way of life.
This project is no different and poses substantial human health and safety risks. The City of Tacoma stands to gain significant financial benefits from the development of this storage facility. But these potential profits do not release the city of their legal obligation to meaningfully consult with the Puyallup Tribe as a sovereign nation or comprehensively examine the risks associated with the Liquefied Natural Gas facility.
We stand with our brothers and sisters of the Puyallup Tribe in their fight to defend their treaty and their home. And as Governor, we urge you to take action and not allow corporate and financial interests to ignore the importance of tribal treaty rights and the safety of Washington state citizens.
Chairman W. Ron Allen
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
Chairwoman Frances G. Charles
Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe
Chairman Jeremiah Jay Julius
Chairman Nate Taylor
Makah Indian Tribe
Chairman Farron McCloud
Nisqually Indian Tribe
President Fawn Sharp
Quinault Indian Nation
Chairman Benjamin Joseph
Sauk-Siattle Indian Tribe
Chairwoman Jolene Williams
Chairman Arnold Cooper
Squaxin Island Tribe
Chairman Leonard Forsman
Chairman Brian Cladoosby
Swinomish Indian Tribal Community
Chairwoman Marie Zackuse
Tribal Chair Jennifer Washington
Upper Skagit Indian Tribe
Chairman JoDe Goudy