Two protesters have locked themselves to a crane at the construction site of a Puget Sound Energy (PSE) liquefied natural gas facility at the Port of Tacoma this morning, according to activist group 350 Seattle. A spokesperson for the Port of Tacoma confirmed that Tacoma Police and the fire department have responded to the scene.
Climate activists and the Puyallup Tribe have been protesting the facility for years. It sits on the tribe's ancestral land at the Port of Tacoma, between two stretches of the Puyallup reservation. Two years ago, the tribe filed a lawsuit against the City of Tacoma, PSE, and the Port of Tacoma, claiming that the project would impact tribal members' ability to fish in treaty waters. The lawsuit also claimed that the project's environmental impact statement did not evaluate the possibility that the project, which sits on a Superfund site, could create a plume of contaminated soil.
The Port argued that its environmental review process was proper and included the Tribe, and that the Tribe's petition for a land use review came too late. Pierce County Superior Court dismissed the suit without prejudice.
The City of Tacoma says that the facility will generate 250,000 gallons of liquefied natural gas a day for use in ships, transportation, and peak electricity demand. The project would also build five additional miles of pipeline throughout Pierce County.
Stephen Way, 72, one of the protesters locked to the crane, said when reached by phone that he had tried "everything" to stop the project. "I've gone to all the City Council meetings, I've marched, I've gone to all the Port of Tacoma Commission meetings," he said.
"My major concern is climate change," Way, who moved to Tacoma in the '70s, continued. "I've got two kids and four grandkids. They are not going to be living in the world I'm living in. And the fossil fuel industry is trying to come through the Pacific Northwest and I'm sitting up here to do everything I can to stop it. And it's sitting on Puyallup tribal land, and they've been getting screwed over for years, and it's not right."
A Port of Tacoma website for the liquified natural gas project claims that once the gas is burned in cargo ships, it will provide a cleaner alternative to diesel fumes and will better air quality in Puget Sound. The website also claims that the gas will have no negative impact on groundwater or local waters.
But climate activists like Way say that liquified natural gas, though it's often pitched as a cleaner fossil fuel than say, coal, is just as bad for the climate in terms of carbon emissions. A recent study by a Scottish oil and gas consultancy projected that liquified natural gas, not coal or oil, will drive the bulk of carbon emissions for the world's biggest energy companies by 2025 because of the energy-intensive way it's produced.