Above the law –

I’m going to warn you right now. I’m hot. I’m so pissed right now. My thoughts may not be the most coherent right now. I may have to come back and update but I wanted to get some thoughts down and out for contemplation.

This is a screen grab from one of my neighbors, who lives near the fracked gas plant.

A lot of questions are being raised about how, exactly, Puget Sound Energy is being allowed to move forward on the construction of their fracked gas plant on the Hylebos waterway at the Port of Tacoma, on the Salish Sea.

Some are questioning how or why PSE is being allowed to continue when the permits have not been processed fully through the system. How, despite two years worth of efforts by concerned citizens about health and safety issues, is NO ONE LISTENING???

At the risk of sounding jaded, it’s because they know that getting the permit is really a formality. They have done all the necessary work ahead of time, so that they work in a system rigged to benefit them. They have spent who knows how much to create a proverbial stacked deck to ensure that there are no impediments to their plans.

Their actions have included influencing the development and interpretation of codes, ordinances and processes to facilitate the very lowest of bars for environmental and safety reviews of projects. The “permitting process” is currently no more than a formality. A weak representation of what permitting and reviews used to mean to public and environmental health. It is a show. They apply for permits in segments that do not cross the threshold for a full environmental review. They present projects that appear one way, not crossing the threshold that would trigger any in-depth reviews and then after approval has been received, they change the projects to more accurately represent what they intended to build from the beginning.

For decades, industry has chafed at the processes that were designed to provide somewhat of a guarantee that human and environmental health were being considered before their projects would be approved. They chafed at the regulations, because it cost them time and time is money. They live on the Wall Street clock, which requires 20% growth in a 90 day period. They move fast, and make mistakes, but they won’t even let you think about trying to hold them responsible for the mistakes their haste creates. Mistakes that can’t be remediated, whose impact is felt for generations.

There is no teeth in the review of projects before they get built, and there is no meaningful punitive remedy for failed projects that violate the sanctity of human and environmental communities.

Industry does what they want. They are the ultimate super-citizen, with the tiniest of souls.

What are we to do? Industry knows that if they build, courts will not make them tear down. They know that the most that will happen is that the courts will make them pay a fine. You can bet your money that they have included these fines as part of their budgeting. They believe that their profits will far exceed any of the puny fines a court will impose. It’s a risk analysis. All companies use them

What are we to do? Keep raising the issue. Keep calling City of Tacoma and asking them why they are allowing the build to continue when the permits are not fully granted? Ask them the tough questions. Did they intend to issue the permits no matter what? Is there really any meaningful review process anymore? Do they just serve as a rubber stamping agency to allow industry to walk all over the will and desire of the people? How is this a government ‘of the people and by the people’ when the only ‘people’ they serve are industry?

Email or call City of Tacoma http://www.TacomaPermits.org. City of Tacoma. Planning and Development Services Ph: 253-591-5030. pdsinspection@cityoftacoma.org

Email or call Dept of Ecology Quality Assurance focal: Agency Quality Assurance Officer – Bill Kammin 360-407-6964 wkami461@ecy.wa.gov and ask him how the work is continuing without permits being in place. This is potentially a violation of a quality assurance program. If it isn’t, it should be.

Contact the Attorney General’s office. Chandam@atg.wa.gov and ask them why the city and the port are allowing an out of state entity to violate Washington State policies regarding permitting. PSE is using segmentation permitting processes to avoid the environmental reviews a pipeline would normally require.

Go to a meeting. Show your face. I can’t go to every meeting. In fact, I haven’t been to a meeting in a while, but I am planning to attend some in the near future. Your voice and your face mean a whole lot to this fight. We need you. Please speak up and show up. If you need encouragement or advice, let me know. I’m happy to help. I’m not an expert, just a really concerned citizen.

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