Puget Sound Energy LNG facility — what this means for Tacoma

The Port of Tacoma is slowly but surely introducing a new member to its shores — the Puget Sound Energy LNG facility. 

LNG is natural gas — such as methane —  that has been cooled down into liquid form. Since the cooling process considerably diminishes volume, the natural gas can then be transported more efficiently compared to its gaseous state. 

In regard to Tacoma, the LNG facility is planning to provide maritime transportation vessels — like TOTE Maritime Alaska — this cleaner fuel alternative. Certain residential and commercial areas will benefit, as well. However — since this facility will be substantially smaller than other LNG sites — it will not be participating in export services. 

After years of frivolous debate, construction is finally underway. However, it is still unknown whether its implementation is truly safe and environmentally-sound. 

With this in mind, it is crucial to evaluate the positive and negative externalities of LNG — especially as the Puyallup Tribe of Indians continues to voice strong opposition to the facility. 

Advantages of LNG

According to the Center for Liquified Natural Gas, natural gas produces half the carbon dioxide of coal when burned. In other words, utilizing natural gas resources should diminish global CO? levels — essentially aiding in environmental cleanup.

Specific to Tacoma, PSE has stated that the LNG facility will dramatically reduce cargo ship pollution — estimating a 100 percent reduction of sulfur emissions for TOTE’s. Furthermore, a switch from diesel-powered ships to natural gas-powered ships will promote improved air quality for both Tacoma and Puget Sound.

CLNG further explains that the national presence of LNG promotes economic growth — projecting an approximate 665,000 jobs per year by 2035. Nationally and locally, we can expect to see large profit gains from this site, as well as a spike in employment rates.

The positive externalities of an LNG facility are that it is a clean alternative to current fuel methods, and will help promote a healthy economy for Tacoma residents. On the surface, the utilization of LNG is reasonable — but wherein lies the negative?

Disadvantages of LNG

While this facility has a series of positive economic incentives for Tacoma residents, there is — unfortunately — a glitch in the seemingly perfect system. 

For instance, the Puyallup Tribe has been diligently working to remove LNG from the Port of Tacoma. The Tribe has argued that the facility will infringe upon their ancestral homeland, and potentially damage both their economy and culture. 

According to the Tribe, they were never contacted by PSE or the City of Tacoma about the proposed LNG facility — a clear violation of their legal rights. 

Besides the negative societal impact the facility would pose for the Tribe, LNG has a long list of potential hazards for workers and surrounding communities, as well. 

After the Plymouth LNG plant exploded in 2014, the skepticism of LNG safety skyrocketed. Sadly, the explosion injured workers, forced hundreds of individuals to evacuate their homes, and — according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — 14,270 barrels of LNG spilled.

LNG might aid in producing an economically prosperous Tacoma — providing a cleaner alternative for maritime vessels — but human safety should always be considered.

With objection from the Puyallup Tribe and doubts concerning community safety, is LNG the right choice for the Port of Tacoma? 

Finding a balance between the negative and positive externalities of LNG has yet to be discovered, and with the additional pressure from Tacoma residents — concerned about the potential safety risks — the Port of Tacoma should not be utilized for an LNG venture.  
Until PSE can definitively say that LNG is the best option for Tacoma, this facility will need to find its home elsewhere.