by Bradley Thompson
The WPPSS (pronounced “whoops”) debacle of the early 1980s offers some interesting parallels to today. Back in the 1970s and 80s, speculators believed that cheap “clean” nuclear power would be the energy of the future. Through the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS), public bonds were issued to provide financing to build new energy infrastructure for which demand never materialized. The project was ultimately scrapped due to cost overruns, project delays, sloppy oversight, and the public’s growing concerns with the safety of nuclear energy. Hundreds of millions of dollars and the public trust was lost. In short, the WPPSS project was a white elephant, a venture that was expensive but without value.
Fast forward to today, when none of us can escape the inundation of paid Puget Sound Energy (PSE) advertising touting the “clean, cheap, and safe” properties of liquefied ‘natural’ gas (LNG). TOTE Maritime and Port of Tacoma are promising that LNG will be the “maritime fuel of the future!” Fossil fuel lobbyists sold politicians on a vision of fracked fossil gas as a “bridge fuel to our clean energy future” and, in so doing, got them to pass legislation specifically benefiting PSE’s private venture with millions in public tax subsidies. Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission approved PSE’s request to have electricity & gas ratepayers pay 43% of the costs to build the private Tacoma LNG project, to the tune of $134 million.
So, what’s wrong with this picture? More and more scientific studies are casting doubt on what appear to be overblown claims by PSE & TOTE, the project is now stalled while permitting agency Puget Sound Clean Air Agency takes a new look at the climate impacts of fracked gas, the Puyallup Tribe is asserting its treaty rights in strong opposition to the project, Tacoma’s fire chief is now saying that the project isn’t safe without building a new city-funded $6.5 million fire station nearby, and a groundswell of concerns about safety & environmental risks are now being expressed by a weary general public.
Don’t let Tacoma be duped by fracked gas industry lobbyists, corporate politicians, and global private investment banks! Hundreds of millions of public tax moneys should not be used to subsidize 18 jobs at a private monopoly energy utility! Let’s invest in real solutions that offer a just transition to a 100% clean energy future, not in new 50-year fossil fuel infrastructure that locks in carbon for decades, threatens the livability of our planet, and risks becoming just another publicly-funded stranded asset.