Port of Tacoma | KNKX

Port of Tacoma

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Weeks after thousands of young people stormed the streets to demand more action on climate change, the issue is shaping campaigns across the nation.

That wave is rippling through two races in Western Washington — and big money is flowing in, both for and against candidates who are outspoken about the need to rein in use of fossil fuels.

The 8 million-gallon containment tank is seen from a distance on Tacoma's tideflats at the site of a liquefied natural gas plant currently under construction.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Editor's note: This series originally published May 22. Environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp was in Tacoma on Tuesday covering the latest developments, including an anti-LNG march and a public hearing related to permits for the proposed project. Listen to her coverage on All Things Considered today and Morning Edition tomorrow, and revisit previous coverage (updates at the bottom of this post).

Puget Sound Energy CEO Kimberly Harris wasn’t surprised to receive a call from Gov. Jay Inslee the afternoon of May 8. But she was surprised to hear what he had to say.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

As voters fill out their ballots for Tuesday’s primary, they’ll be choosing who will fill four seats on port commissions in the region — two each in Seattle and Tacoma.

Tribal members and their supporters fill the office of Gov. Jay Inslee on Jan. 23, 2018, in protest against the construction of a liquified natural gas plant being built in Tacoma.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Climate activists rallied on the Capitol steps in Olympia on Thursday and delivered boxes containing nearly 150,000 written comments to Gov. Jay Inslee.

They're urging him to reject proposals for fracked gas infrastructure in Washington, including two projects already underway, in Tacoma and Kalama.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Dozens of activists from around the region traveled to Renton Wednesday for a public hearing on Puget Sound Energy’s latest 20-year energy blueprint. The protesters say the utility needs to do more to get off of fossil fuels sooner.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Clean air regulations that have been in the works for a decade are proving too tough to implement for thousands of short-haul truckers who call on the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, The Northwest Seaport Alliance extended the deadline for compliance.

Will James / KNKX

Puget Sound Energy is close to getting all the official okays it needs build a liquefied natural gas plant at the Port of Tacoma.

Environmental activists and neighbors have fought for about two years to halt the project. They say their last real chance lies with a local clean-air permitting process. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

There are a lot of opinions about what projects should get a green light at the Port of Tacoma. In the last few years there’s been more of a push to move away from the traditional industries like mines and fossil fuels to more environmentally-conscious plans. But not everyone is in agreement.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent over the last few decades to clean up toxic pollution from the region’s industrial past.

In Tacoma, a prime spot for manufacturing and processing is the waterfront area in the center of town.

The City of Destiny no longer suffers from the notorious “Tacoma aroma” of its past. But some of the less-visible cleanup work is vulnerable because of budget cuts before the state legislature.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo/file

The Puyallup Tribe says it will not go along with plans to put a liquified natural gas facility on a site at the Port of Tacoma. The site is located on land that lies sandwiched between parcels on its reservation.  

The tribe says its biggest concern is that its reservation lies in an urban area. And the heart of that is the Port of Tacoma.

"Aerial photo of Port of Tacoma" by D Coetzee is licensed under CC by 2.0

Tacoma has a decades-old reputation as an industrial city. But leaders say it’s time to rethink which specific industries are welcome. 

A City Council proposal would direct the Planning Commission to draft new land-use recommendations for Tacoma’s industrial tideflats area, which includes the Port of Tacoma.

Puget Sound Energy

Plans for a terminal that would make and store liquefied natural gas at the Port of Tacoma are moving closer to reality.  But there’s still a question of how the costs should be divvied up. 

Puget Sound Energy, the private utility hoping to build the plant, is in talks with state regulators over how to structure the corporate entity that would run the facility — essentially a chilled steel tank wrapped in three feet of concrete. 

Tom Colins / Flickr

A judge in Pierce County has thrown out two initiatives aimed at giving people in Tacoma a bigger say in development projects. The group “Save Tacoma Water” circulated petitions for two ballot measures. They would have required a public vote on development projects planning to use more than a million gallons of water a day.

Michael LaFreniere is the spokesman for the grassroots group Save Tacoma Water. He says today’s ruling undermines the ability of citizens to put forward local initiatives.

Patrick Rodriguez via Wikimedia Commons

After working to defeat a plan for a giant methanol plant, the grassroots environmental group RedLine Tacoma has turned a critical eye to another big energy project, Puget Sound Energy's plan to build a facility at the Port of Tacoma to store liquefied natural gas and sell it as a marine fuel.

Port of Tacoma

Northwest Innovation Works, a company backed by an arm of the Chinese government, said in a statement that it's terminated its lease at the Port of Tacoma where the company had planned to build one of the world's largest methanol plants. 

The company said it's still pursuing a plan to build a smaller plant in Kalama on the Columbia River. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s one of the more dramatic-sounding aspects of climate change: as carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases speed up global warming, sea levels are expected to rise too.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Port of Tacoma commissioners say they have a lot of unanswered questions about a Chinese-backed company's proposed methanol plant on port property.

Almost two years ago, the commissioners signed a 30-year lease with the company, Northwest Innovation Works, with little public input. But lately there’s been so much public outcry that the company paused the environmental review process and is now seeking an extension to the feasibility phase of the lease. 

Port of Tacoma

Northwest Innovation Works, the Chinese-backed company seeking to build one of the world’s largest methanol plants in Tacoma, says it wants to address community concerns, but at a panel discussion sponsored by the City Club of Tacoma, many people expressed frustration that they haven’t been able to get answers. 

Ashley Gross / KNKX

In Tacoma, a Chinese-backed company has been seeking to build one of the world’s largest plants to convert natural gas to methanol, which would then be shipped to China to be used in making plastics.

After an intense public outcry, the company recently said it will pause the environmental review process, saying it has been “surprised by the tone and substance of the vocal opposition that has emerged in Tacoma.”

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The city of Tacoma’s first public meeting about plans for the world’s largest methanol plant drew a much bigger crowd than expected. 

One fire marshal estimated that a thousand people showed up. Some couldn’t get into the main room or an overflow room because those were already full. 

Port of Tacoma

A Chinese-backed group wants to build what they say would be the world’s biggest methanol plant at the Port of Tacoma, raising lots of concerns among nearby residents, who will have a chance to weigh in on the project at a scoping meeting this Thursday. 

Puget Sound Energy

Plans for a liquefied natural gas facility at the Port of Tacoma are one step closer to reality, after the Tacoma City Council passed a resolution to move ahead on an agreement with the port about the project.

Puget Sound Energy says it needs a place to store natural gas and the way to do that is to chill it to a liquid form. So the company wants to spend $275 million to build the plant which would convert the gas to a liquid and then keep it on port property in a 140-foot-tall storage tank.

Northwest farmers are watching several bills closely in Congress that would try to keep trade moving through ports in the event of a labor dispute.

The container yard at the Port of Lewiston, Idaho, looks forgotten. A tall crane next to the Clearwater River sits parked and unused.

Off in the distance, two orange metal shipping containers lie side-by-side, surrounded by asphalt in every direction.

"Last year, there would've been probably 250 containers here," says David Doeringsfeld, the port's general manager.

AP Images

 

As the Port of Seattle joins with Tacoma to compete against other ports in British Columbia and California, concerns have arisen that it might be losing sight of some of key environmental goals, such as creating sustainable jobs.

The concerns come as Seattle moves forward with a controversial deal to temporarily host Royal Dutch Shell’s oil drilling fleet at terminal 5 in West Seattle.

Two rigs are headed for the Arctic later this summer, along with support vessels.  And the port says it needs the revenue from that lease to pay for upgrades to the terminal and keep it competitive – for Panamax ships and other things in the long haul.

At the same time, Seattle has joined forces with Tacoma to bring in more revenue from lots of other kinds of shippers – and that agreement, called the Seaport Alliance - has some environmentalists crying foul.

Fred Felleman is the Northwest consultant for Friends of the Earth and served on a port citizens’ committee to develop future goals.

"We're going to be perfectly positioned to roll out the red carpet for Arctic exploitation - not for sustainable clean-green jobs that we worked so hard with the Century Agenda Committee to make our emphasis,"Fellemen said.

He says that Century Agenda is fading into the background.

Felleman has been watch-dogging the port for years. He’s also just joined the race for an open seat on the port commission.

Port of Tacoma / Flickr

The cargo shipping industry is in the midst of big changes and that’s prompting the ports of Seattle and Tacoma to forge an alliance.

Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero, the top regulator of the nation's ports, says the alliance is a "great idea."

Walter Siegmund / Wikimedia Commons

 

The worsening labor dispute at West Coast container ports is causing shippers to search for alternate pathways to and from Asia.

An obvious place to look is the thriving port in Vancouver, B.C., but officials there say they can't absorb much diverted traffic.

Birdy206 / Flickr

The Pacific Maritime Association says it won't have any vessels loaded or unloaded at 29 West Coast ports, including Seattle and Tacoma, this weekend.

The association, which represents port terminal operators, says it doesn’t make sense to keep paying workers engaged in what employers call a months-long work slowdown.

Ayda D / Wikimedia Commons

 

A popular gift now for Chinese New Year is a box of red apples from Washington. But Northwest shippers say a labor dispute at West Coast ports is jeopardizing that lucrative overseas market.

B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure / Flickr

A federal mediator has been appointed to help facilitate collective bargaining between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, the group representing terminal operators up and down the West Coast.

The employers have been saying the longshoremen have deliberately slowed down work to gain leverage in contract talks. The workers say the slowdown is the result of other congestion problems, including a shortage of truck beds for carrying containers.

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