The Puyallup Tribal Council is kicking it up a notch in its fight against Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at the Tacoma Tideflats.
This month has been a busy one. On Dec. 1, Tribal Councilwoman Annette Bryan and Councilman Jim Rideout testified at an informational meeting hosted by Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) as the agency considers an air quality permit for PSE’s LNG plant, the final step in the permitting process.
In its Sunday, Dec. 10 edition, The News Tribune published an editorial/opinion piece by Puyallup Chairman Bill Sterud titled “Halt LNG plant, respect Puyallup tribal concerns” (thenewstribune.com/opinion/article188850214.html) in which he addresses the lack of information from PSE concerning the dangers associated with the plant, particularly how high the level of risk would be to surrounding areas should an accident occur.
“The Puyallup Tribe and our community demand a responsible and comprehensive assessment – one that meets the level of risk posed by this project,” Chairman Sterud wrote. “Even the Final Environmental Impact Statement states that ‘the Project does introduce a major new risk factor into an area with one of the City’s lowest emergency response times.’ We need an assessment and analysis that adequately reflect the level of risk this project poses to the health and safety of Puget Sound, our region, our communities and our families. Until that responsibility is satisfied, all work on this proposed plant should be stopped.”
Tribal Council has retained public relations firm Pyramid Communications to support Tribal Council’s communication efforts through the media and other forums regarding its LNG stance. Pyramid Communications is seasoned in this type of work, having joined up with the Lummi Tribe to help stop the Cherry Point coal export terminal last year, which would have been the largest coal port ever proposed in North America; with the Yakama Nation to stop another coal export facility at Boardman, Ore. near the Columbia River; and with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on the Dakota Access Pipeline movement. The Puyallup Tribe is also working with the law firm Sonosky Chambers and Vanessa Ray-Hodge (Pueblo of Acoma), a partner in the law firm’s Albuquerque office. She was involved in the Standing Rock movement and is an expert in treaty rights.
“We are Puyallup tribal elected so it is our responsibility to protect our treaty rights to protect our salmon and our land base for the people,” said Puyallup Councilman Jim Rideout. “We strongly oppose this PSE facility on our Puyallup tribal reservation.”
Vanessa Ray-Hodge and Pyramid Communications founder John Hoyt joined Tribal Council members at a community meeting Friday, Dec. 8. A big turnout came to the Little Wild Wolves Youth and Community Center to learn more about the Puyallup Tribe’s position on the LNG facility as a direct threat to the Tribe’s homeland, culture, way of life and its tribal membership.
Puyallup elder Ramona Bennett and other members of the Water Warriors activist group were there to take part, along with Protectors of the Salish Sea, Climate First Responders, Redefine Tacoma, Port of Tacoma candidate Kristin Ang and State Rep. David Sawyer, Native Daily Network, 350 Tacoma, Sierra Club, Advocates For a Cleaner Tacoma and more.
“What we want to hit in the media right now the obligation that Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has to look at all of the cumulative impacts of air emissions in the Tideflats airshed and also analyze completely the potential impacts on the surrounding communities of this facility,” Councilwoman Bryan said in a recent interview.
With three young children in schools within a mile and a half of any potential “blast zone” should there be an explosion at the LNG facility, Councilwoman Bryan is very worried about her little ones.
“I feel passionate about this issue because my kids are right there. If something were to happen, I don’t even know if they’re safe and I have a right to know as a parent that my kids are going to be safe if something happens,” she said. “PSCAA has a responsibility to answer that question for all parents and community members.”
Councilwoman Bryan knows of what she speaks given that she worked at the Environmental Protection Agency as a tribal coordinator in the Washington State operations office for 10 years. Prior to that she worked for PSCAA (then known as the Puget Sound Pollution Control Agency) as an air pollution inspector for the Tacoma Tideflats area, and before that she developed and implemented air quality regulations for the Puyallup reservation.
“The Puyallup Tribe has air quality regulations on tribal lands that are in the same airshed as this project,” she said.
The Tribe’s foremost question is how does PSCAA measure a potential threat from the LNG plant and whether this facility met that test.
“We have scientists pouring through the environmental impact statement that PSE did and we’re just not comfortable,” Councilwoman Bryan said. “I’d consider it a win if they could do an analysis that would ensure that if there were a catastrophe, that we would be safe. We don’t know. We don’t have that information and we need to know that. We need a cumulative assessment – to look at this in combination with every other source of pollutants (at the Port of Tacoma) and then assess the impact.”
The Tribe is just as concerned about the water as the air.
“Everything that goes up into the air lands somewhere,” she said. “You can’t say that it goes up and blows away. If it’s a pollutant particulate, it’s going to fall somewhere so to say that there’s no impact to the water is ridiculous.”
“I just feel that we need to do everything in our power to stop this plant and if we don’t, we’re not going to be able to look at our children and tell them we did everything we possibly could. Having the community’s questions answered, and the Tribe’s, would be a huge accomplishment because to this point people have been excluded in this permitting process by design. Now we’re where we are because of that.”