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caption: Puget Sound Energy's liquid natural gas tank (foreground) is about as tall as the Tacoma Dome (background). 
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Puget Sound Energy's liquid natural gas tank (foreground) is about as tall as the Tacoma Dome (background).
Credit: KUOW Photo / John Ryan

Air agency approves Tacoma gas plant. Foes vow to fight on

Regulators have approved construction of Puget Sound Energy's 14-story-tall liquid natural gas plant on the Tacoma waterfront.

Opponents are expected to appeal the decision by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

Climate activists and the Puyallup Tribe have tried for years to stop the plant, which is nearly complete, from being built.

The permit allows Puget Sound Energy to finish construction and ultimately deliver 250,000 gallons of gas a day by pipeline from western Canada to the plant and super-chill up to 8 million gallons of gas in a tank as tall as the Tacoma Dome.

In its evaluation of the plant’s impacts, the clean air agency assumed the plant would operate for 40 years.

“The facility as now proposed has positioned Tacoma as a dangerous fossil fuel anchor holding us back from a sustainable future,” a Puyallup Tribal Council press release states.

"Now, we can move forward on a facility that will bring cleaner air to Tacoma, help reduce greenhouse gases and ensure our customers' homes stay warm on the coldest days of the year," Puget Sound Energy spokesperson Janet Kim emailed.

The plant is expected to help make local air healthier to breathe by replacing low-sulfur diesel that Tote Maritime ships burn on their cargo runs from Tacoma to Alaska and lowering their emissions of sulfur and soot.

But claims by the energy utility and its regulator that the plant would help the global climate are false.

As KUOW reported this summer, the clean air agency used outdated science to conclude that the plant would help, not harm, the global climate.

The decade-old research the agency relied on underestimates the harm that methane, the main component of natural gas, does to the global climate and is no longer used by climate scientists.

"The climate crisis demands that we stop investing in fossil fuels and that includes new fracked gas projects,” Washington Environmental Council CEO Joan Crooks said in a press release from a coalition of native and environmental groups.

The agency’s approval was announced a few hours after the Puyallup Tribe declared a climate emergency.

"It is no small irony that one of the greatest regional threats to our climate won approval by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency on the same day," a tribal council press release states.

The formal declaration says the tribe will phase out fossil fuel vehicles, boats and facilities in the next 15 years.

“This resolution isn’t just a formality," tribal council member and former air quality inspector Annette Bryan said in a press release. "It’s our promise to do everything we can to help restore the health of our Mother Earth."

The Tacoma City Council was scheduled to vote on a climate emergency declaration of its own later the same day.