On Tuesday night, almost four years exactly to the date that the Interim Regulations were first enacted, the Tacoma City Council passed a set of Non Interim Regulations to replace them. They will remain in place while the rezoning of the Port is considered during the Tideflats Subarea Planning process. Only Council Member Beale voted against the deeply flawed regulations.
“I think there’s a disconnect between what we’re doing here and our environmental policy,” said Beale before the vote.
As passed, the Non Interim Regulations contain a weak definition of “cleaner fuels,” so weak, in fact, that regular pumped gasoline, containing 10% ethanol, may pass muster. Deputy City Attorney Steve Victor begged to differ but could not point to precise wording that would disallow such blends.
None of this is cleaner, this is just business as usual.
Thus, fossil fuel companies like US Oil, SeaPort Sound Terminal and others will be allowed to expand their capacity by 15%, adding up to 750,000 barrels total of storage capacity. Even the WA State Energy Office wrote to the council about how flawed the city’s definition was. And environmental law firm Earthjustice wrote a similar letter. Both letters went unheeded.
During the meeting, Mayor Woodards addressed their inability to change the poor definition and simply said “we could not get that done by the reading of this ordinance.” This entire process has been underway for over four years now and the Planning Commission’s recent recommendations came out in April.
The new code also exempts the Puget Sound Energy LNG project from this expansion limit, allowing them to eventually apply for and double their current processing capacity. Naturally, this will also double their pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The facility continues to be built and operated despite Puyallup Tribal objection – they have still not given consent, and it is their land. This amendment also flies in the face of the City’s own Human Rights Commission which recommended further review of the project. It also ignores case law from Earthjustice that PSE does not in fact have a vested interest to expand. All these voices of dissent were ignored.
City Council has subverted the Planning Commissions recommendations for zero fossil fuel expansion twice, and ignored their Findings of Fact (the foundational facts supporting their recommendations) which point out that fossil fuels are bad for our community, environment, and jobs.
“And the whole council is voting on a committee recommendation that’s relying on a Planning Commission Findings of Fact report that’s now being repealed, but rolled into the ordinance at the same time,” said Beale, pointing out the glaring contradiction of allowing fossil fuels to expand while simultaneously including that they are bad for Tacoma.
The council even created a new process by which to alter these recommendations, sending the last set to the Infrastructure, Planning and Sustainability Committee where Council Member Conor McCarthy oversaw a process so corrupt that Beale felt compelled to call it out at a council meeting. Despite this, the eight amendments that emerged “for consideration by the full City Council” somehow became the accepted code without a public vote by the council, subverting the process which had been outlined to the public.
The council then went on to all but ignore the input from the Puyallup Tribe, despite taking additional time to consult with them. The Tribe had recommended a more accurate definition for cleaner fuels and also striking the exemption for the LNG facility. Again, these fell on deaf ears.
“They gave us an eight page letter which resulted in two clarifying amendments, not substantive, when they asked for substantive amendments,” commented Beale.
These Non Interim Regulations also run counter to the spirit of the Climate Emergency Resolution that the city passed in December 2019. They also subvert the revision of the Climate Action Plan, which is nearing completion, by cementing in the expansion of fossil fuels.
“I’m just really sorry for Tacoma, honestly,” said Council Member Beale.
“While a 15% cap on expansion is better than unlimited expansion, it is still not the progress we were hoping for, nor commensurate with the climate emergency we face,” said Daniel Villa, a volunteer with 350 Tacoma. “The task now before those of us who want a cleaner, healthier future for Tacoma is to influence the Subarea Plan to regulate for a swift transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.”
“I’m not holding my breath for that,” he added. “Though you may want to anytime you’re near the Port.”
This has been corrected to remove “Fracked gas is considered cleaner, too.” Our friends at Citizens for a Healthy Bay have a breakdown of what’s allowed: https://www.healthybay.org/tideflats-regulations-passed/
Have also changed “that regular pumped gasoline, containing 10% ethanol, passes muster” to “may pass muster.”