The Puget LNG Plant
We’re Puget Sound Energy. We’re building a Liquefied Natural/Fracked Gas (LNG) ticking time bomb facility in Tacoma’s backyard. That bomb will run on fracked gas, turn the heat up on an overheated planet , and dump tons of poison into Tacoma’s air.
Why would anyone want to do such awful things? To make money for our corporate overlords, of course!
You see, many people think we’re a public utility, a misperception we at Puget Sound Energy work hard to maintain. We’re actually a private, for-profit business whose owners (Australia’s Macquarie Group and a handful of Canadian pension funds) live far away from the danger and the pollution our fracked gas refinery will create.
Why did we pick Tacoma for our Fracked Gas Backyard Bomb™? When harmful industries converge in one place—and local government writes that place off on the grounds that it’s already polluted—that’s called a sacrifice zone.
Sacrifice zones treat local residents and the local environment the same way—really badly. People who live in or near sacrifice zones often come from communities that our political system ignores. In the case of PSE’s fracked gas time bomb, this include members of the Puyallup Tribe, who were never meaningfully consulted about our dangerous refinery.
Other residents of the Tacoma sacrifice zone include detainees at the Northwest Detention Center. If there’s an explosion or leak at our fracked gas refinery, the plan is for the 1,500 men and women at the NWDC to “shelter in place.”
Doing business in a sacrifice zone has lots of advantages. To start with, who is going to complain that we’re building a fracked gas time bomb without the necessary permits? The detainees at the NWDC have a lot to worry about already, and their not having internet access works to our advantage.
We at PSE have, however, been nervously watching as the indigenous community organizes its opposition to our building a polluting bomb on their traditional lands. We’re worried that if the public starts paying attention to how we’re violating the treaty rights of native peoples, our fracked gas house of cards could come crashing down before our time bomb even starts ticking.
Fortunately for us, our PR campaigns and political contributions across the board help keep this issue quiet, as well as the obscure fact that our ratepayers across the region will be
paying for this bomb in Tacoma’s backyard. That’s because PSE convinced regulators at the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) that if a winter cold snap leads to unusually high demand from residential customers, PSE might need some extra gas capacity, to be funded by raising the rates of its residential customers.
It’s a great deal for us: residential demand is projected to use at most just 7% of the LNG refinery’s 8 million gallon storage tank; but our ratepayers will be paying for 43% of the projected $310 million constructions cost.
Capabilities: People say that PSE is capable of anything. We take that as a compliment. The same holds true for our Fracked Gas Backyard Bomb.™ Check it out!
- Threatens the health and safety of all Tacomans
- Violates the treaty rights of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians
- Will poison the groundwater in the communities where the fracking wells are drilled
- Will pump out 39.6 tons of toxic air pollutants per year into the Tacoma air
- Will release pollutants that cause and/or exacerbate childhood asthma, COPD, and other pulmonary diseases
- Will heat up planet Earth until at least 2064
- Can create an explosive vapor cloud that can travel up to 3.5 miles in any direction.
- Can release superchilled material as low as 260° below zero, causing cryogenic burns
- Built on unstable fill next to two Superfund sites
- Built on a geological fault in a lahar zone
- In an era of rising seas, built just a few feet above sea level in a tsunami zone
- Will help ensure the extinction of dwindling salmon runs
- Opposed by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, National Congress of American Indians, founders of the University of Washington Tacoma, 32nd Democratic Legislative District, 36th Democratic Legislative District, 37th Democratic Legislative District, 43rd Democratic Legislative District, 46th Democratic Legislative District, 48th Democratic Legislative District, King County Democratic Central Committee, Native American Caucus of the Washington State Democrats, Environment and Climate Caucus of the Washington State Democratic Party, Washington State Federation of Democratic Women, Washington State Progressive Caucus, Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and the Snohomish County Democratic Central Committee
Construction at the plant is currently underway even though we don’t have all the permits the law requires. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem, since our friends in Tacoma city government don’t seem interested in enforcing the law.
Building PSE’s LNG refinery means jobs for the labor force that we’ve brought in mostly from out of town. Sorry, Tacomans—you don’t have the cutting-edge skills that the 19th-century technology of fossil refining demands. Maybe you want to consider going back to school and retraining for those high-paying jobs in the medical field our Fracked Gas Backyard Bomb™ will bring. Whether chronic health problems caused by pollution or the acute care that accident victims will require, PSE’s LNG refinery is sure to make life in Tacoma interesting!
Like the other excuses we’ve invented to foist an 8-million gallon bomb on the people of Tacoma, our claim that LNG is the best way for us to meet the 2020 International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 0.5% global Sulphur cap is something we made up so we can make money.
There are lots of ways ships could conform to the IMO’s new Sulphur cap. Shipping companies could do something visionary, like investing in the all-electric ships they’re launching in Norway and China . Sure, these ships have a limited range and the electricity has to come from somewhere, but creating electric-powered vehicles is an important step in creating the infrastructure that will allow the world to transition quickly to zero-carbon energy sources like solar, wind, and tidal energy.
And shipping companies would have ample time to develop the technology of all-electric ships, since despite the Sulphur cap’s 2020 deadline, it’s not like they’ll all be switching to LNG any time soon. Because of the cost of retrofitting ships and the fact that LNG takes up twice as much space than the “bunker fuel” traditionally used, energy consultant Stillwater Associates says that “LNG usage likely will not be significant prior to 2025.”
If they’re not feeling adventurous or if they don’t want to be competitive in the post- carbon economy of tomorrow, shipping companies have lots of options to meet the 2020 Sulphur cap with existing technologies. The International Maritime Organization says that “Ships can meet the requirement by using low-sulphur compliant fuel oil.” The IMO also says that “Ships may also meet the SOx emission requirements by using approved equivalent methods, such as exhaust gas cleaning systems or ‘scrubbers’, which ‘clean’ the emissions before they are released into the atmosphere.
We at PSE like to emphasize that ships’ smokestacks emit less sulphur and other pollutants when they run on LNG, but we conveniently leave out the fact that refining and liquefying natural gas to make LNG produces tons of pollutants. And we mean tons: 85.7 tons of Volatile Organic Compounds, for example. In case you missed it under the “Clean” section of this website, short-term effects of breathing VOCs include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea/vomiting, and dizziness. Long-term, high-level exposure to VOCs can cause liver and kidney damage, central nervous system damage, and cancer.
You’d think that giving kids asthma and adults cancer would be reason enough to come up with a different plan. But if violating the treaty rights of the Puyallup Tribe and threatening the lives of the 1500 men and women incarcerated at the nearby Northwest Detention Center didn’t stop us, do you really think we’d be bothered by a few adverse health effects (including death)? We at Puget Sound Energy take our commitment to making money for our corporate overlords seriously.
You may be asking yourself, what does a public utility have to do with fueling ships? Good question! You see, although Puget Sound Energy sounds like a public utility, we’re really a for-profit multinational corporation whose major shareholder, the Macquarie Group, is headquartered in Sydney, Australia. Buying up Puget Sound Energy back in 2009 was the first step in our master plan to make tons (literally!) of money, by dumping tons of pollutants (literally!) in Tacoma and sucking up all the profits for ourselves. They don’t call us the Vampire Kangaroo for nothing!
When we bought PSE, Washington state regulators imposed all these pesky rules called “ring fencing” to keep us from tangling up the business of providing heat and electricity to peoples’ homes with risky business ventures.
But we all know that just like the promises they symbolize, rings are meant to be broken. So we gave lots of money to Washington State politicians. (Don’t worry Tacoma, we gave lots of money to your city politicians too). Once everyone knew what a powerful Vampire ‘Roo we were, we said to the chairman of the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission, “Mr. Danner, take down that fence!”
And Chairman David W. Danner and the WUTC obediently did just that, so now ratepayers (that’s you, if you get your gas or electricity from PSE anywhere in the State of Washington) are paying for 43% of the cost of the $310 million LNG plant.
Supposedly what you’re getting in return is some extra gas on the very coldest six or seven days of winter, even though we’ve never had a real gas shortage and the winters are getting warmer. Wait, there’s more. Thanks to politicians like Jake Fey and Laurie Jinkins , we don’t have to pay sales tax on the LNG plant’s construction materials, and we get a bunch of other tax breaks too! A win for the Vampire ‘Roo!
But what happens when the world transitions to a post-carbon economy and people don’t want to buy our LNG after we’ve spent $310 million building our PSE Fracked Gas Factory TM ? Or what if there’s an explosion in an area near where thousands of people live and work—and near the refineries of Targa Sound Terminal and US Oil?
Don’t worry, we’ve already thought about liability. By forming a shell company called “Puget LNG,” if something bad happens, we can just wash our hands and walk away.
Right now we have just one customer, TOTE Maritime, which already plugs its ships into shore electricity when they’re in port, something we usually don’t mention since it works against our argument of why LNG is good for the Port of Tacoma.
But we’re hoping to get more marine customers, including cruise ships. After a cruise to see Alaska’s melting glaciers (better book soon!), these behemoths could drop off their customers in scenic Seattle before heading down to scary Tacoma to refuel with LNG—and unload their cargo of sewage. Can you say poop deck?
We at PSE are keeping our fingers crossed that the Feds will drop that picky little law that prohibits transporting LNG by rail because of the dangers. 18 But under the administration of President Donald Trump, things are looking up for LNG, 19 and we’re hoping that those tiny hands will soon be giving a tiny thumbs-up for LNG transport by rail and LNG use as locomotive fuel.
That’s because LNG fueling for railroads represents one of the most exciting new transportation technologies of the century—the nineteenth century, that is! 20
You see, LNG is a fossil fuel, just like coal or oil. And while we at PSE like to talk about how LNG is so much cleaner than other fossil fuels, you’ll notice that we never talk about the full cycle of LNG production, from fracked wells poisoning ground water, to methane leaking from drilling rigs and from thousands of miles of pipeline, to all the pollutants released wherever LNG is refined and liquified (we’re talking about you, Tacoma, our City of Toxic Destiny! TM ). We don’t talk about the full cycle of LNG, because if we did, we’d have to tell you that LNG is no better than other fossil fuels. LNG may even be worse than other fossil fuels when it comes to global warming. 21 22
“Casey Jones, you better watch your speed!” Union Pacific train delivering Bakken Crude to Mosier, Oregon.
Major railroads like Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe are pushing ahead with LNG-fueled locomotives because their CEOs and upper management don’t have to live where the natural gas is fracked or where LNG is refined. 23 And when you have a safety record like Union Pacific 24 or Burlington Northern Santa Fe, 25 you can appreciate the advantages of fuel that evaporates when it’s spilled—allowing you to make a clean getaway!
“This train is bound for glory, this train . . .” When BNSF gets its locomotives running on LNG pulling mile-long trains of LNG, you’ll really see the sparks fly!
All tracks lead to the Port of Tacoma, or at least a lot of them do. We built our PSE Fracked Gas Factory TM as close to major rail lines and inter-modal yards as we could, not to mention the petrochemical palaces of US Oil Refinery and Targa Sound Terminal. What if something goes wrong, you say, particularly since the section of railway running through the Port of Tacoma is publicly owned? Since that public railway is also woefully underinsured, what would happen if a train running and hauling our LNG were the cause of a major accident that experts warn could bankrupt the City of Tacoma? 26 That’s why Puget LNG is a Limited Liability Corporation. Can you say ‘Not Our Problem’ TM ?
On-Road Transportation Markets
When used in trucking, LNG has the potential to lower costs—especially when rate- payers and tax-payers are subsidizing it.
If you engage in the same kind of creative accounting we used to fund our PSE Fracked Gas Factory TM , you can also say that LNG emits less pollutants like NOx, SOx, and particulates than diesel does—as long as you don’t count where the LNG is refined, which is right here in Tacoma.
If you can keep a straight face, you can also say that LNG reduces greenhouse gas emissions—as long as you don’t count leaking methane, which is eighty-six times more powerful a greenhouse gas over a twenty-year period than carbon dioxide. 27
Trucks powered by LNG are already on Washington’s highways, but we’re hoping to have a lot more of them soon—pulling tanker-trailers chock full of LNG, of course!
So the next time that you see a shiny eighteen-wheeled tanker truck driving by, keep your eyes peeled: that truck just might become a 500-foot fireball. 28 As the saying goes, “Keep Tacoma Feared!”
Off-Grid Industrial Markets
But until our dream of running a natural gas pipeline to every man, woman, and child on this planet is realized, some folks won’t have the opportunity to enjoy clean, delicious natural gas.
Until now, that is. Just because you’re off the grid, it doesn’t mean you need to be off the gas. That’s why we’ve launched our LNG delivery service.
Whether you’re a mom-and- pop plastics factory, a pottery studio in the middle of a National Forest, or a terrorist militia holed up in the Montana hinterlands, all you have to do is call 1-253- EX[P]LODED (leave out the P for Power!), and we’ll send a truck or train full of LNG headed your way before you can say ‘Cryogenic Burns’!
Puget LNG is cost-effective—for us and for our maritime customers, that is, but not so much for regular folks without our political connections. We at PSE would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to those regular folks—for paying over $133 million to help build our new LNG liquefaction plant at the Port of Tacoma!
How am I paying to build the LNG plant, you might ask? Well, if you’re a residential customer of PSE, you might want to keep a close eye on your utility bill, because it will soon be rising faster than leaking methane. Thanks to the approval by the WA State Utilities and Transportation Commission, PSE ratepayers anywhere in the State of Washington will be paying for 43% of the cost of the $310 million LNG plant. Supposedly what you’re getting in return is some extra gas on the very coldest six or seven days of winter, even though we’ve never had a real gas shortage, we have loads of extra storage capacity , and the winters are getting warmer.
In addition to that, Tacoma extra-generous ratepayers deserve an extra-gassy thank you from us at PSE! They’re paying to repave and improve Taylor Way so that we can have good roads for our giant tanker trucks full of LNG. As well as paying for our emergency services by keeping Fire Station #5 down at the Port of Tacoma funded after the first year of it being reopened.
We at PSE like to emphasize that LNG burns more cleanly than other fossil fuels at the point of use, but we didn’t say anything about what happens at the Fracked Gas Factory TM we’re building in Tacoma’s back yard!
You see, refining and liquefying natural gas to make LNG produces tons of pollutants. Literally tons! Here are our own annual pollution estimates from the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that we submitted to the City of Tacoma
NOX 13.8 tons per year
CO 20.1 tons per year
SO2 5.5 tons per year
PM10 1.03 tons per year
PM2.5 1.03 tons per year
VOCs 85.7 tons per year
Sulphuric Acid 0.27 tons per year
Toxic Air Pollutants 39.6 tons per year
Hazardous Air Pollutants 0.38 tons per year
Greenhouse Gases 20,751 tons per year
Unlike what happens when ships, trucks, or trains burn regular fuel and distribute their pollutants over thousands of miles, the pollutants from refining natural gas at our LNG plant will be concentrated in Tacoma. So you, Tacoma residents will get to breathe a potpourri of nitrous oxides, sulphuric acid and fine particulates—and experience adverse health impacts ranging from asthma to emphysema. Ah, the Tacoma Aroma—you ain’t smelled nothing yet!
That’s not all. Those Volatile Organic Compounds that we’ll be pumping out 85 tons of a year have even more serious impacts at high levels of exposure. Short-term effects include eye, nose & throat irritation, headaches, nausea/vomiting, and dizziness. Long- term, high-level exposure can cause liver and kidney damage, central nervous system damage, and cancer.
And we’re building our fracked gas facility to last. The lease we signed with the Port of Tacoma gives us the right to refine and liquefy natural gas for 25 years, with the option for another 25-year renewal. That means we’ll be polluting the Tacoma air until 2064!
When it comes to safety, LNG refining/liquefaction plants in Washington State have a 100% record—of accidents!
On March 31, 2014, an explosion occurred within processing equipment at the Plymouth LNG facility owned by Williams Pipeline Company, sending a mushroom-shaped cloud into the air—really.
The explosion injured five employees, including one who was hospitalized for burns; the other four employees were treated for shrapnel. Some of the shrapnel pierced the double walls at one of the facilities two 14.6 million gallon tanks.
Luckily, no one was sneaking a cigarette there at the time, so the only thing that happened was a huge leak in which 14.3 million gallons of natural gas gushed into the atmosphere. Everyone within a two mile radius was evacuated, and 100 emergency responders had to stand around for a while until the wind blew enough of the vaporcloud away that it was safe to enter the area. No biggie.
But that was Williams. We’re PSE, and we’ve never had an accident at an LNG liquefaction plant we’ve built—because we’ve never built one. And that teensy, weensy natural gas explosion we were responsible for in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle back in 2016 and had to pay $1.5 million in damages for, even though we’re still trying to stiff one of the family business ruined by the blast ? Well, like who hasn’t forgotten to cap a pipe leaking natural gas?
Building an LNG refinery whose tank holds the equivalent of 166 kilotons of TNT in an earthquake, tsunami, and lahar zone just above sea level on shaky ground—what could go wrong?