On Friday, June 15, Tacoma activists, U.S. Senate candidate Steve Hoffman (Freedom Socialist Party) and volunteers with his campaign came together to speak out against the Puget Sound Energy liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal being built on Commencement Bay.
Rallying at the Puyallup Tribe’s Chinook Landing Marina, they warned of the dangers posed by the LNG facility. These include its siting on contaminated landfill and the “blast zone” threat it poses to populated areas in the case of an explosion.
Moreover, the massive plant, designed to produce up to 500,000 gallons of LNG per day and to store up to eight million gallons, is taking shape adjacent to tribal land. The decision-making and planning process ignored the Puyallup Tribe’s treaty right to be consulted. Indian fishing rights, which rely on clean water, were similarly disregarded.
Candidate Hoffman pointed out that incumbent Senator Maria Cantwell is on the Indian Affairs Committee and should be protecting the sovereign rights of the Puyallup Tribe. “Her silence telegraphs environmental racism and a defense of energy industry interests over the needs of our planet and its inhabitants,” he said.
Hoffman remembered his youth spent on Lake Erie in Ohio. “I grew up hunting and fishing,” he said. “I was really heartened when government regulations began to clean up the water. And I really don’t want to allow environmental protections to be dragged backward.”
Activist Tracy Wiegman described Puget Sound Energy as a problem utility. “They are a private-owned operation that’s coming in here stomping all over Puyallup tribal treaty rights, and they are just going to add to the degradation of the environment that’s already happening,” she said.
Doug Barnes shared the history of tribal activism near where the group was gathered. “In the 1960s and ’70s they beat people at the river landing, right over there,” recalled Barnes, who is the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) national organizer. “In 1970 tribal members took a stand because they were being harassed so much. They were shot at and over 60 were arrested. This is part of the legacy of the tribe’s fight for their fishing rights and defense of the salmon. FSP stood with the tribe then and we are still part of the fight now.”
Seattle Radical Women organizer Gina Petry, who spent time in November 2016 supporting the Sioux water protectors in North Dakota, remarked on the leadership of women, especially Native women, in working to stop the LNG plant and educating the public about its effects. Said Petry, “It’s the same as what I saw at Standing Rock. Women are on the frontlines of the struggle to stop the destruction of the earth.”
Kathy Lawhon, a journalist, described why she’s working to stop the LNG facility. “It’s one of the largest, most complex in the world,” she noted. “It’s highly dangerous. It’s never supposed to be this close to urban populations and a busy port,” she stated. “It could be catastrophic.” Living in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, Lawhon noted that she herself is in the blast zone.
The protesters shared photos of their signs asking “Are you in the blast zone?” on social media and chanted “Hell no, no LNG!”
“When it comes to standing up to the fossil fuel corporations and standing for Mother Earth, the tribes are kicking it,” said Hoffman. “Indigenous people throughout the Americas are leading the fight against climate change. I think that other environmentalists and the labor movement should join with them, just as many Tacomans have united to fight this terminal.”