Signs, some creative and some simple. They hung in the air as drivers slowed to a crawl to read them all. Many beeped their horns in support of the water protectors standing against a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plant.
The Puget Sound Energy liquefaction facility which according to activists will be an environmental disaster is to be built on the Port of Tacoma. As of today, PSE is lacking vital and necessary permits to start any work on this project. Despite this, in a challenge to the safety of the public and the rule of law, work is well underway and continues daily.
For its part, PSE claims to have all of the necessary permits for its current scope of work. Recently released Cease and Desist orders from the Puyallup Tribe of Indians prove those claims untrue. We have learned that PSE requires a Notice of Construction permit from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
As each previously granted permit is conditional on certain criteria, a lack of a notice of construction renders previous permits invalid. Read this article which explains the permitting issues facing Puget Sound Energy who is owned by an Australian based hedge fund. –Tribal Council Come Out Swinging–
Thursday the 21st September 2017 will be remembered for growing solidarity for the NOLNG253 movement. It will also be remembered by an act indicative of colonial racism as Indigenous leaders were met with Washington State Troopers barring entry to ‘private property.’ Questions were raised as to whether Gov. Inlsee would have also been met with the same resistance. That was a good question considering that the Sovereignty of the tribes is equal to that of the State.
Water Warriors go Statewide
Today was an incredible show of unity as 13 actions took place in support of the Puyallup Tribe and the people of Tacoma against the LNG facility. Carlos Voli is an organizer with 350Seattle who worked tirelessly to bring this to fruition. 350 posted this on their facebook page after the event:
WE DID IT!!! We pulled it off and collectively sent a powerful message to PSE and helped spread awareness and build momentum around these issues.
Our hands go up to the Water Warriors Movement and Protectors of the Salish Sea, as well as to all the other groups around the state who came together as a coalition to pull this day of action off.
Today we saw more friends than normal. Enough to bring big name news media outlets out in force. It was a great opportunity to educate people on the reasons people are opposed to the plant.
Worse than Coal
Steve Storms, a retired chemical engineer, recently spoke at a fossil fuel expansion meeting about the effects of LNG on the environment. ‘It’s worse than coal’ he said, ‘considering that the so-called natural gas is being sourced from fracking wells.’
He explained that there is a significant release of methane at several steps in the process from extraction to use. The area of most concern is the fracking wells themselves, with a much higher release rate than previously anticipated. ‘Methane is 90% worse as a greenhouse gas than Carbon Dioxide’ Storms told the panel.
A big argument for supporters of the plant is that it will improve the air quality around the Port of Tacoma. Because of this, it’s vitally important to point out the bigger picture. A member of the crowd on Thursday told us that she felt it was incredibly selfish of the City and the Port to look at improving the air quality here but causing catastrophe elsewhere.
A driver who had stopped traffic to read the signs overheard part of the conversation. He let us know that he disagreed and thought it right that the council stands up for Tacomans. “I don’t live there, I live here,” he told us before asking “what’s it got to do with you what happens to other people?”
Tribal members and environmental groups are also deeply concerned about the safety of the plant to the community. They contend that the 8 million gallon LNG holding tank represents a huge explosive threat to residents in an up to 3-mile blast zone.
PSE, The Port of Tacoma, TOTE, and unions reject the arguments of explosive hazards. PSE point out the concrete and steel walls of the facility. A recent union letter argued that if people did their research they would realize there is no explosive risk. They also point out, with no sense of irony, that if the employees of TOTE who work nearby wear fire-retardant jumpsuits, it might save lives as it had done in a similar incident at another LNG location.
Lloyds Register, the worlds leading risk assessor concluded recently that a 1.3 million gallon LNG facility in Gibraltar would put thousands of people at risk. The Gibraltar government aims to store LNG for use in power production. The LNG, which will be shipped in, will be stored in 5 separate 265,000-gallon containers.
Back in Tacoma, we’re looking at a potentially explosive power of 166 kilotons of TNT. For perspective, the Hiroshima bomb had the power of 15 kilotons of TNT.
A recent study commissioned by the city of Martin in Florida pinpoints these dangers. They are facing the prospect of trains that will be transporting LNG traveling through their region. They published a study on the explosive impact a 10,000-gallon car of LNG could have. You will notice that anyone within one-third of a mile of a potential 10,000 gallon LNG explosion would be in grave danger. Can you imagine an explosion 800 times greater as would be the case if there was an explosion at the Tacoma plant?
Risk Too High
The risk is too great for the Puyallup Tribe and also the many people that live in the region. It is why protestors are here, holding signs and saying no to PSE’s fracked gas facility. The Port is already the home to several Superfund sites and an oil industry expanding at a rapid rate.
The Puyallup people and residents of Tacoma want to start cleaning up the mess that is already there. All of the groups want to avoid adding to it. This has been a common refrain at Port Commission and Council meetings.
Some Superfund sites include inorganic arsenic and signs posted to fences warn of associated cancer risks, all while workmen dig into the ground without even so much as a facemask. It’s been mentioned by activists several times but if there was an explosion at the site what else would it throw into the air to fall down on the local residents who survived the blast?
These safety risks are compounded by the fact that the Port of Tacoma is half a mile from the Tacoma Fault line which makes up a part of the so-called Ring of Fire.
Wikipedia tells us that The Ring of Fire is a major area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. In a 40,000 km (25,000 mi) horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements. It has 452 volcanoes (more than 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes). The Ring of Fire is sometimes called the circum-Pacific belt.
In the past few years, there have been significant quakes in this Ring of Fire. With some absolutely devastating and reaching over a magnitude of 9.0. It is estimated that the Tacoma/Seattle area is currently overdue for a ‘Big-One’ meaning a massive earthquake that will have severe effects on our region.
The earthquake argument is largely sidestepped by most groups and when it is answered, we are told that the facility will have twice the earthquake resistance of the interstate. What they don’t mention is that the facility is being built on a part of the port that isn’t land at all. It’s built on silt and mud flats. It’s estimated by the USGS that a magnitude 7.4 earthquake will liquefy the entire area. Much of those risks are explained here:
Puget Sound Energy customers were also present. One lady didn’t know what the demonstration was about but stopped to watch and then got angry. “I’m a PSE customer,” she told us. “how much will I have to pay?” – in truth, we couldn’t answer that question. On a case by case basis, it would be impossible to tell. We told her that PSE aims to burden their own customers with much of the heavy lifting in terms of financing this project. That is to the tune of $143 million dollars.
Early in the movement, RedLine Tacoma (now ReDefine Tacoma) pointed out that PSE was taking all of the rewards and all of the profit but none of the risks. The liability, they told us, was being put on PSE ratepayers. The rest of the risk? That is on the Puyallup Tribe as well as people that live life in and around Tacoma.
Redline, Allyship Redefined
This is a movement which is as much about community as it is about the environment. There are deep bonds amongst the people that have regularly come together to stand for this cause.
Indigenous and non-indigenous have stood side by side for several months. Working together, common goals and a belief that it’s the right thing to. These tenents have united people who may not have crossed paths otherwise.
RedLine(ReDefine) has been at the center of the resistance to this plant since the beginning and was created to oppose fossil fuel expansion in this city. A year ago they were the local environmental upstarts who were successful in helping defeat the Methanol plant project in Tacoma.
Now, even despite the name change, they are considered well established and highly respected by the majority of the community they work for every day. They have a particularly close relationship with the Water Warrior Council made of up Puyallup tribal members.
It is them, along with the newly formed Tacoma350, who play an important role in supporting local efforts to defeat projects that will negatively impact the local community. Not least by their amazing researching skills and passion. Their work helps inform and educate local citizens. They help people understand the physical dangers they could be facing. Also, as in this case, the financial liability that is being passed on to them.
It’s appropriate that in this defense of Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) that our grandmother’s take a lead role. Puyallup elders such as the legendary Ramona Bennett and Nancy Shippentower addressed the crowd. Also speaking was our own Benita, a Standing Rock elder along with Elizabeth Satiacum of the Quileute Tribe and Momma-in-Chief Teshay Firethunder. All added to the unci presence at the microphone.
Since its inception, this has always been an indigenous female-led movement. That was exemplified by Charmaine Martin who came to gift Drops of Water pendants to the Water Warriors. These pendants are designed and created by Dan Garduno for Water Protectors. It was a touching moment as the symbolism of these pendants is hard to miss.
We also saw the return today of one of our heroic allies. She deserves to be called hero because she is a bona fide member of the legends club. She has just got back from providing vital nursing services at the wildfires in Oregon. Pam Keeley has the biggest heart you could hope to find. The love for her in the group is palpable. Welcome home, Pam.
Dakota Case read out loud a letter addressed to Kimberly Harris who is the energy companies CEO. The letter listed a plea and demands from all concerned groups. A copy of this letter was presented to PSE at each location in which an action took place.
An excerpt reads:
We urge you to cancel the Tacoma LNG facility, commit to a 100% renewable energy and energy efficiency replacement for Colstrip, and broadly reject “natural” gas as a false bridge in transition to a clean energy future. PSE has the opportunity to lead in combating climate change and creating a healthier world. Will you be on the right side of history?
Dakota stood close to the front door of the PSE office. He was carrying a Puyallup Tribal flag and wearing his iconic Cedar hat. The crowd continued to grow. The police, who wouldn’t let anyone into ‘private property,’ wore the uniforms of the Washington State Patrol. Eventually, a man came out and took the letter from Dakota. In return, he passed over a post-it note with just a phone number written on it, before hurrying back inside.
Dakota gives his reflection on the day of action and the movement in general.