By TRIBAL NEWS STAFF

Washington Governor Jay Inslee made a surprise announcement on May 8 that was welcome news to the Puyallup Tribe. Citing his conscience, Inslee said that he will oppose the planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Tacoma.

The governor’s move was a reversal from his earlier support for the project and it was good news for the Puyallup Tribe. Council Chairman Bill Sterud applauded the governor’s position.

“We welcome the governor’s strong and clear statement about the dire impacts of fossil fuels,” Sterud said. “Today he showed strong leadership on climate change.”

The Puyallup Tribe has long been a major opponent of Tacoma LNG. Sited on the Tribe’s ancestral homelands, officials have argued that the project is unsafe and will contribute to climate change. They have also argued that the governments responsible for reviewing and permitting the project failed to consult with the tribe — a blatant violation of their legal responsibilities.

The governor also came out in opposition to a large gas-to-methanol facility planned for Kalama, Washington, a project he has also previously supported. In a written statement the governor explained his change of heart about the projects.

“In the early days of both projects, I said they could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions as we transition to cleaner energy sources, but I am no longer convinced.” Inslee said. “Science is continuing to emerge regarding the dwindling window for action … and we don’t have the luxury of a 50-year transition phase.”

The news caught many by surprise, including the advocacy groups that have opposed the project for years. It was widely heralded by environmental organizations and other groups.

Adding to the anti-LNG movement recently was an announcement from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. On May 10, Ferguson issued a new policy requiring the Attorney General’s office to obtain “free, prior and informed consent before initiating a program or project that directly and tangibly affects tribes, tribal rights, tribal lands and sacred sites.”

Although Ferguson’s statement did not explicitly mention the Puyallup Tribe or LNG, it provides a strong framework for criticizing the track record of Tacoma and other government agencies that have failed to engage in meaningful consultation.

State agencies are most likely to intervene in the LNG project if they are requested to the City of Tacoma, a decision that rests with city manager Elizabeth Pauli.

It is not yet clear how Inslee’s opposition will affect the Tacoma project, which is almost finished being constructed and lacks only a single permit from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency before it can begin operating. The governor has no formal role in approving or denying permits for the project, but state agencies in the executive branch may take cues from the governor’s office. The Department of Ecology could initiate supplemental reviews of the project’s environmental impacts, creating additional delay and uncertainty. State agencies are most likely to intervene in the LNG project if they are requested to the City of Tacoma, a decision that rests with city manager Elizabeth Pauli.

Contact Tacoma City Manager Elizabeth Pauli at (253) 591-5130 to request a supplemental review of the LNG Plant’s environmental impacts.