Public Hearing at the Rialto Theater Reiterates Concerns Directed at Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Over PSE’s LNG Facility
By PUYALLUP TRIBAL MEMBER BRANDI DOUGLAS
Over 100 concerned residents and members of numerous environmental groups gathered in downtown Tacoma, Wash. on August 27, 2019 to rally in solidarity alongside the Puyallup Tribe and Puyallup Water Warriors in preparation for a march toward the Rialto Theater several blocks away.
A public hearing to afford commentary regarding Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s recent decision to grant a preliminary air permit for Puget Sound Energy’s liquefied natural gas project, despite public outcry by the Tribe and the surrounding community.
In a show of unity, individuals began gathering at Don Pugnetti Park in the early afternoon, wearing T-shirts and toting banners and signs.
As the march was prepped to begin, several Tribal Council members took to the microphone. So did Water Warriors, Tribal members who take action to protect natural resources.
“We have a lot of ways of life to protect. People talk about treaty rights. Let’s talk about what those treaty rights really mean,” Water Warrior Dakota Case urged.
Tribal Council Chairman David Bean shared a quote by the late treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr. that spoke to the urgency of halting the facility’s operations: “We are at a crossroads, and we are running out of time.”
Anna Bean, a member of Tribal Council and a Water Warrior, periodically turned to her young daughter standing beside her as she alluded to the impact on generations to come.
“We are up here to ensure that our future has a future,” Bean said.
PSCAA’s decision to grant a preliminary air permit followed the release of its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in March. The Tribe has insisted that consultation, a treaty right, never took place.
The Tribe and fellow environmental advocates also have asserted that
the science supporting the project is erroneous in its claims to be a cleaner and safer source of energy. A July 22 statement on the Power Past Fracked Gas website in opposition to the preliminary decision said that the SEIS is “unacceptable and disregards the many negative impacts that Tacoma LNG would have on air quality, public health and safety, and Washington’s climate goals.”
Led by police escort, the crowd marched up Pacific Avenue toward the Rialto Theater to chants of “No LNG in the 253” and intermittent periods of singing and drumming in several intersections. After a final circle formed close to the Rialto, the Tribe’s Events Coordinator Chester Earl summoned youth to the center and recognized them as the future advocates, with an honor song sung to travel with them.
The crowd in front of the Rialto grew to several hundred, a mix of those supporting the LNG facility and a burgeoning group of opponents.
Chairman Bean was the first to speak once the hearing began inside the theater. He noted that PSE customers will be expected to cover almost half the cost of the project while only 1 percent of the LNG produced would be used for customers. The cost, however, he said was beyond monetary value.
“We urge you to listen to tens of thousands of people who oppose
the project,” Bean said. “We must be thinking of how we can make our community better for future generations, not how we can further pollute our community. … Let’s finish cleaning up the tideflats and invest in 21st century jobs.”
Five of the seven Puyallup Tribal Council members followed Bean. Snohomish Tribal Councilwoman Pamela Bond was one of the first to comment once the hearing began inside the theater.
“If you didn’t know, PSE is my enemy,” Bond said. “It’s the enemy of my people.”
Puyallup Tribal member Teshay Firethunder touched on care that needed to be afforded to all living things.
“I ask that you deny this permit for the creatures that can’t speak,” Firethunder said.
Darren Moore of Native Daily Network spoke about several groundbreaking court cases that speak to the constitutional power delegated to treaties, the Medicine Creek Treaty in this matter, and how they cannot be overridden.
Puyallup Tribal elder and former Council chair Ramona Bennett said the project was dangerous.
“Once it’s in operation, there’ll be no remedy whatsoever,” Bennett said. “You know, we’re looking at 200 tons of airborne emissions. Gas. Leaks. It burns. It explodes and it stinks. It’s gas. Tacoma is going to smell like one big fart.”
Several people in support of the LNG facility cited reasons such as improved fuel economy, reduction of harmful chemical compounds and refueling hazards, present day uses of natural gas and what they said was a lack of alternatives.
During a brief break between hearings, Native Daily Network screened its film “Ancestral Waters” shown next door at Urban Grace Church. The film captures the Tribe’s efforts in demanding respect for their treaty, water and way of life.