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Native American Tribes Challenge PSE’s West Coast LNG Project

A $300 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage and marine transportation facility under construction on the tideland flats of Port Tacoma, WA, is again under fire from Native American tribes.

Vowing to protect people, land and water from what they see as "devastating development," the Puyallup Tribe and 14 other Native American tribes are urging Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to halt construction underway by Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and the port authority. The targeted start date for the facility is late next year.

Inslee was asked to halt construction until a full environmental review is completed. Puyallup Tribe officials contend that Tacoma officials did not "meaningfully consult" with them in their status as a sovereign nation "or comprehensively examine the risks associated with a LNG facility."

In 2016, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) approved an all-party settlement to protect PSE utility customers, which allowed Puget LNG LLC to be created, whose sole purpose as a limited liability company is to own, develop and finance the project.

The proposed Tacoma LNG facility is to be capable of receiving nearly 21,000 Dth/d of natural gas from which up to 250,000 gallons of LNG could be produced. As designed, storage capability would include up to eight million gallons of LNG. The facility would provide transportation LNG for Totem Ocean Trailer Express Inc., and marine fuel sales to other vessels and purchasers.

From the utility's standpoint, the LNG facility is expected to save customers $50-100 million over 10 years compared to the cost of increasing pipeline capacity into the region.

The project is being developed in phases and the corresponding permitting is on the same phased basis. Permitting must be completed before a given construction phase can begin.

Project supporters contend that the LNG facility is undergoing thorough oversight.

"A project like this is complex and there are nearly 20 local, state and federal agencies that have or will issue permits as the project progresses," a PSE spokesperson said.

Tacoma's port has been the focus of several natural gas-related proposals, including by Boston-based Xpress Natural Gas, which in 2015 unveiled plans to bring compressed natural gas to the Olympic Peninsula. Separate plans for two gas-consuming methanol plants also are underway. 

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