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Why Are The Citizens of Tacoma Fighting LNG?

Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga

Demonstration against LNG and the Dakota Access Pipeline, Tacoma, November 12, 2016. Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga

Redline, the grassroots Tacoma organization behind the outrageously successful campaign to stop construction of the largest methanol refinery in the world, has a new campaign against Puget Sound Energy’s proposed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) production plant which will occupy the space at the entrance to the Hylebos Waterway off of Commencement Bay. The facility will convert natural gas to LNG and store it in a tank nearly as tall as the Tacoma Dome. PSE plans to use the facility to sell LNG as marine fuel, and to store LNG when natural gas prices are low, to be sold to customers when prices are high, a practice known as “peak shaving”. The production plant will be supplied by a 4-mile pipeline which will be built in Tacoma and Fife through land owned by the Puyallup Tribe, which is currently attempting to stop the project by appealing the permits granted for the project’s shoreline development aspects.

LNG is being sold to the public as a cleaner, cheaper, transitional fuel that will be used to wean us off coal and oil-based fuels. Ships, trucks, and locomotives will be eventually be retrofitted to run off of natural gas. Although it burns with less greenhouse gas emissions, methane itself is a potent greenhouse gas, and leaks during extraction and pipeline transport can be significant. Puget Sound Energy expects that 50 to 60% of the natural gas supplied to their LNG facility will obtained by fracking, and there is mounting evidence that, when the greenhouse gas emissions related to the fracking process, transmission, liquefaction, storage, and conversion back to natural gas are taken into account, greenhouse gas emissions are actually increased. And when one considers the amount of fresh water used in the hydraulic fracking process, the contamination of ground water by fracking, and inevitable pipeline leaks, it is questionable whether there really is any net environmental benefit to using LNG. Nevertheless, natural gas is poised to capture a larger share of the world’s energy demand, and a huge amount of energy and expense is being invested into building a nationwide LNG infrastructure—a network of pipelines and LNG facilities likely to establish LNG as the preferred fuel for ships, trucks, and trains for decades to come.

Below are transcripts of the interviews we conducted with activists Valerie Peaphon, Julia Minugh, and Richard Lovering, as well as the text of a speech that activist Roxy Murray gave at the “No Fracked Gas In The Port Of Tacoma” rally organized by Tacoma Direct Action in front of the Puget Sound Energy on December 22, 2016. Parts of these interviews are featured in our video “NO LNG: A Christmas Carol”.

Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga
Demonstration against LNG and the Dakota Access Pipeline, Tacoma, November 12, 2016. Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga


VALERIE PEAPHON interviewed by Richard Lovering

Valerie: I’m out here tonight on a cold and dark Thursday to protest LNG — the LNG facility that Puget Sound Energy wants to build at the Port of Tacoma. I’m one of many, many Tacomans concerned about the effects this project could have on the environment and on our community. There are a number of dangers associated with liquified natural gas. They typically aren’t built in metropolitan areas, and they want to put this one near neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, childcare facilities, and so we think it is dangerous.

But even above and beyond that sort of “Not In My Back Yard” argument, there’s a bigger risk that natural gas poses, and that’s the fact that it’s a false transition. It is going to encourage fracking, which science has already demonstrated is devastating to the earth.

Puget Sound Energy a couple of months ago was actually bragging on their website that they were going to get 50 or 60% of the natural gas from fracking in Colorado, from the Rockies and Canada. And when we started to push back and say, “Whoa, fracking isn’t good! This is a reason for us to oppose it,” they immediately took that off of their website. I have a screenshot of it that I’ve kept.

They’ve just are sort of giving a lot of half truths. They are not sharing information. And when just regular citizens are trying to get information, they have actually filed lawsuits against them. They are claiming federal statutes that don’t apply under FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] and they don’t currently have all of the permits needed, My understanding is they don’t have the fire permit. They haven’t even applied for it, even though they have already begun to break ground. And so we’re hoping that that is an avenue where we can shut the project down, that the fire department will see that the risks are too great to allow this sort of thing in this sort of metropolitan area.

Richard: Do you think that it’s going to impact real estate values or people’s interest in moving to Tacoma?

Valerie: Sure, so we’ve done a lot of research and we do believe that if this is built, it’s going to negatively impact real estate prices. Homes in the immediate area are going to go down in value. There is going to be an exodus of a lot of the academia, the artistic community—people that don’t want to live near that. And so we think it is going to have a negative economic impact almost immediately. We already know people who have said, “I am going to move”. And there are already people that have put their house up for sale or have moved as a result of the methanol refinery proposal, which actually didn’t go through but did have real consequences, just the fact that they were threatening to put it in Tacoma. So absolutely we think this is going to have real dire economic consequences in Tacoma.

Richard: What do you think the politics of this thing are? In other words, what about the Port and what about the City Council?

Valerie: I think that there has been an awakening in Tacoma, and it’s been one of disappointment and disillusionment, because we have seen that the Port of Tacoma, the City of Tacoma, the City Council, that our elected leaders aren’t necessarily promoting the ideas and beliefs that their citizens, their residents hold. Instead they seem to be very pro-big business, in this case, pro-fossil fuel, which we know is a dead end. And they’re looking to locking us in to a 50-year lease to something that everybody else is moving away from. People should not be investing in these fossil fuels. They should be looking at renewable, green, clean energy. Tacoma is sort of stuck in the past, or looking toward the past to plan out their future.

I think there are going to be consequences. There are a number of seats open in the next year, including on the City Council and on the Port, so hopefully we can get some people in there that are progressively minded and environmentally minded who aren’t going to be swayed by some fancy brochures from a million-billion dollar fossil fuel company, because really we shouldn’t be building new infrastructure. We need to find a way to keep oil, coal, and gas in the ground, not build new plants that are going to perpetuate the use of these fossil fuels that damage the environment locally and the planet globally for years and years to come.

Richard: Where do you suppose those candidates are going to come from?

Valerie: I’m not sure. I don’t have political aspirations, and so I ‘m hoping that it just comes from the grassroots movement and citizens, people who are saying, “I want to be involved. Hey I could do that. I have ideas.” And I think we are starting to hear about some people think about it. I haven’t heard any definitive applicants or volunteers or anything like that yet, but we have a little bit of time, so hopefully some people rise to the occasion.

Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga
Demonstration against LNG and the Dakota Access Pipeline, Tacoma, November 12, 2016. Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga


JULIA MINUGH interviewed by Richard Lovering

Richard: How did you get involved in this?

Julia: Well, I am a member of the Puyallup Tribe. I’ve always been concerned about how the government has treated the Native American people. And I really got involved in Standing Rock. I didn’t go there, but I was doing everything I could at home to support them. Then this came up, and it’s right off of the reservation boundaries. The tribe has gone to court to fight this, but the court and the other people in the city don’t seem to realize what preserving the habitat is, or preserving the culture of the Native Americans. They just brush it off and come up with their own rules about what to do. They pretty much just say, “OK, we’ll consult with you, but we are going to do what we want.”

The Tribe has been against it. I’m not speaking for the tribe, this is just for me. But it’s just so disturbing that we are not treated like other people because we are native. We’ve been living in Tacoma, in Fife-—that’s all on the reservation. I mean we’ve been living with all these people and yet we are treated differently. So I think my main idea is that people should listen to the tribes. We’ve been taking care of this land since before the colonizers ever got here. You know that’s what we do—we are fish people. So we just want people to listen and honor our culture.

Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga
Demonstration against LNG and the Dakota Access Pipeline, Tacoma, November 12, 2016. Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga
Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga
A Native American woman burns sage in a purifying ritual at the demonstration against LNG and the Dakota Access Pipeline, Tacoma, November 12, 2016. Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga


Statement by ROXY MURRAY

Most of you know me. For those who don’t my name is Roxy, and I am an environmentalist, a photographer, and one pissed off Tacoma resident! What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Puget Sound Energy is threatening our water, our city, our planet, and our livelihood with the facility that would hold 8 million gallons of fracked liquified natural gas. They are breaking the law by already starting construction on the site. They do not have all their permits and they are currently in court with the Puyallup Tribe. This makes them corporate terrorists, and we don’t negotiate with terrorists!

We’ve wasted our precious time away from our families and work and projects to attend city council meetings, port meetings, and court hearings. We’ve spent more time than we care to writing letters to all of the key players. We have done everything right, but the system has failed the citizens of Tacoma and the Puyallup Tribe. And when systems stop working for the people and the planet we must take matters into our own hands. There is a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that I want to share with you: “Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state becomes lawless or corrupt”. Tacoma will not be a “Sacrifice Zone” for so-called “economic progress”. We’ve heard this statement constantly for a long time, because our brothers and sisters in Standing Rock are fighting, but we must keep saying it: Water is Life! Water is Life! Water is Life!


Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga
Richard Lovering. Demonstration against LNG and the Dakota Access Pipeline, Tacoma, November 12, 2016. Photo Copyright © 2016 Andrew Elizaga


After methanol (which we managed to drive the folks out of town) in the background there was LNG stealthily making its way across the permitting process. The upshot is that it is almost permitted now. They just lack a fire permit. It’s a disaster! Upstream, there is fracking to get this LNG, and then it gets piped in a gaseous state across many states with the risk of explosions. As a greenhouse gas, of course, methane is very bad. Very bad.  Like 80 times worse than CO2, depending upon whose statistics you quote. And so now all of a sudden Tacoma is faced with an existential threat in the form of an LNG plant—-a huge one. It is essentially going to be a gas station for the ships of the world. And it’s also going to send out its liquified natural gas in trucks and trains to boot. Now clearly at this point we need a supplementary environmental impact statement both because the scope of the project has changed, and also because people need to get involved, which is the very terror of PSE. They do not want to let Tacoma know about this thing or have a voice in objecting to it.

At this point the mayor, due to term limits, is about to step down. There’s going to be an election. What I’m trying to do is recruit candidates for City Council positions and the mayor and Port positions. It isn’t enough to just protest. We’ve got to get people in who will make moral decisions about things like LNG.

Another such decision was, of course, to have the deportees due to immigration infractions, all aggregated on the Tideflats. We have a for-profit prison for immigrants on the Tideflats. Now the LNG plant will be built right next to it. If there’s an incident, it will knock that prison flat. The guards are allowed to escape; the prisoners are not. They are going to take refuge right there, locked in. It could be a horrendous incident if it happened, or when it happens.

We are trying to give LNG a 50 year lease. Now during that time there is probably about a 40% chance that we’ll have an incident, and the incident could be huge and catastrophic. Meanwhile, of course, the LNG plant poses the ideal target for terrorists. It’s a soft target. It’s easy. And as technology gets better with drones and so forth it will be more and more vulnerable from various kinds of places.

This is not the Tacoma we want. Whether we are rich or poor, if we have any feeling at all for Tacoma, this is not the direction we want to go, deportation centers for immigrants and LNG plants beside them. This place is going to become another industrial toilet just as it was long ago. So now is the time to change, and we really need elected officials who will make good decisions, make moral decisions. This is basically immoral what PSE is intending to do. It is for the profit and benefit of some guy in Australia, and we are succumbing to it. We shouldn’t.