Staff Editorial: LNG squabbles reveal policy of silence toward Puyallup Tribe

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With the release last week ofthe Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility on the Tacoma Tideflats, Puget Sound Energy’s next step is to move forward with the air permitting process. Step by step, the project is coming to fruition yet it seems that no matter what studies are done or analyses made, the naysayers just won’t quit.

Ever since the beginning of the LNG saga, local “water warriors” have done their best to throw up roadblocks at every turn and have been defeated each and every time. The sad truth is that they cannot grasp the fact that the LNG plant is going to be built no matter what they do to try and stop it. Fear mongering, rhetorical “What if?” scenarios and exaggerated claims of LNG “dangers” are sounding like a broken record at this point. Truth is that LNG is far better for the air and environment than the dirty bunker fuel currently being used to fuel marine vessels and trucks at the Port of Tacoma. As the FSEIS report states, the use of LNG rather than petroleum based fuels will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The greater the replacement of other petroleum-based fuels with LNG, the greater the overall reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” as stated in the report.

Still, such scientific findings are not enough for anti-LNG groups that continue to level complaints against the facility and those who are working to get it established. Case in point: the Puyallup Tribe, which sent out a long and accusatory statement immediately after the FSEIS was released. Interesting timing, too, seeing as tribal council elections are currently happening and stirring up LNG squabbles makes for the ideal sideshow issue for candidates to hang their hat on. Never mind that the tribe owns and profits from half a dozen gas stations in town. (What is involved in gasoline production? Fracking!) Never mind that Puyallup Tribal Council Chairman Bill Sterud, who is currently up for re-election, receives a great deal of money in the form of dividends from oil refineries on his Midwest tribal homelands. The tribe seems to have great concern for the environment, but relies on petroleum byproducts, gambling, alcohol and tobacco for income. Now they continue complaining about LNG – something that will improve the environment and air quality while the tribe’s very economy rests largely on selling petroleum products. What “green” elements are being incorporated into the tribe’s glitzy new casino set to open soon? What will be done to counter-balance the heavy increase in traffic pollution brought to the area and tons of trash that the casino will generate?

And what happens when the media tries to speak with major players like Puget Sound Energy, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the City of Tacoma about the tribe? We’ve asked them all if the tribe’s apprehensions toward LNG are legitimate or false and we get no comment. No one will talk about it. No one wants to confirm or deny the tribe’s reactions to LNG, much less the tribe’s hypocritical stance on the environment, nor anything at all that may criticize or challenge the tribe on any level. This begs of the question, “Why?” Are our local leaders afraid of the tribe? Afraid to rock the boat by speaking truths or even suggesting that the tribe needs to check itself? Or maybe it’s a lip-service thing – invite the tribe to take part in big, important projects, pat them on the head and walk away knowing that they’ve done their legal duty with all the feel-goods for bringing native tribes to the table without ever really intending to take them seriously.

In the end, it all spells a big disservice to the public, as sovereign tribal nations should be held just as accountable and transparent as all other levels of government. If it’s allowable to examine and question the actions of county, city, state and federal government, why is it such a no-no to do the same for the fifth government entity among us: tribal nations? They are a major player in everything that goes on around them, so why should they be permitted to exist outside of the standards applied to all other government entities? Treating them with kid gloves is just plain wrong and does nothing to further candid conversations or foster open and honest government across the board.

The Puyallup Tribe needs to wake up and stop with digging their heels in over LNG. They need to remember that 99 percent of their revenue comes from across their borders – customers spending paychecks at their casino and fueling up at tribal gas stations. Business at the Port drives our local economy in big ways that the tribe benefits from, too. Don’t disrupt a good thing for the rest of us. This also should serve as a wake-up call to tribal youth. The old ways of doing things, with public protests rather than joining in to find solutions together, puts the tribe on the outside looking in. Times have changed, and the old methods simply don’t fly anymore. Better to be part of the solution than part of the problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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