When you can’t fight City Hall….

…without punitive retribution….and you fight anyway.

I’m very disappointed with the way the City Council handled the comments at the public hearing. Their behavior is so punitive and adversarial. To my mind, they clearly showed a preference for industry. They have shown themselves, once again, and I’m resolved that while I might attend future meetings, I will not waste my voice on their ears. I will observe and gather data and find other ways to have my voice heard. 

I’m still irked that this port, which is subsidized by the taxpayers of Pierce County, was subsumed by the Port of Seattle into the Northwest Seaport Alliance IN SECRET MEETINGS.

Here are some of my thoughts from the city council hearing …

The main theme out of industry’s mouth: money, money, money, money.
There was a sub-theme: “Why don’t you see that we are environmentally responsible” There were also some comments about how a thriving port brings more taxes to the city, but there is a lot of irony tied up in that argument.

Does anyone in this state remember when the smoking ban in bars and restaurants was being proposed? Smokers and industry pitched HUGE fits about the proposed regulations. They claimed it would kill the economy and keep people out of restaurants and bars. They fought it with a rabid ferocity. They were like Chicken Little, crying that the sky would fall. Our legislators had to take a lot of grief from industry and from people who smoked – because people who had a nasty little addiction didn’t want to be inconvenienced, even though it was proven that second hand smoke was bad for people. It was a very interesting time to watch all the debates, marinated in a lot of really bad logic and red herring arguments.

But what happened? The restaurant/bar industry not only survived, it has expanded and grown. More people go out for dinner, for drinks and for entertainment. Most importantly – more people are spared from the hazards of second-hand smoke.

What we finally resolved was that the health of the people was a higher priority than the continuation of a status-quo that science had proven was bad for the health of people. The sky definitely did not fall.

So when industry says that we can’t pause development because the economy will suffer and jobs will be lost and …… the sky will fall ….. they are essentially behaving like Chicken Little and predicting a skyfall that will never happen.

One gentleman commenting was upset – I think he actually said he was offended – that so many in the community apparently don’t see the efforts industry puts forth to be environmentally responsible. I have to wonder what their definition of environmentally responsible is. I’ve driven around the port, driven along Marine View Drive and smelled the acridity of metal from Schnitzer Steel. I have had to inhale the vapors that the tank farms put off on any given day. I’m not able to comprehend how that is environmentally responsible. I also wonder if he considered the fact that there are over 1300 sites in and around the port that are tracked as cleanup sites by Department of Ecology. That’s not to say that they aren’t doing SOME things. I guess I would have to say that what they are doing isn’t enough. Not with the onslaught of industry.

This is our reality on the port right now.
1300 cleanup sites.
No real time air quality measurement for toxic chemicals.
No meaningful environmental evaluation of projects before they are approved.
No evaluation of environmental impact in relation to other surrounding projects.
No way to really hold industry financially responsible in a meaningful way when cleanups are required.
A toxic plume that’s migrating out into the Salish Sea.
Devastating losses of salmon and orca.
No transparent community engagement.

What does industry think a HEALTHY environment on the port looks like? This is a sincere question. Is it really more tank farms and more emissions that don’t get measured? Is it an unmitigated influx of more oil and coal on the land and on the waters? Is an environmentally responsible port one that doesn’t care about the salmon and the orca and the eagles and osprey? Is it half measures, like air quality?

TOTE said that they think we will see “lots and lots of cleaner burning ships” in the future. But, really, it’s only a guess they’re making. I can’t state this often enough – this claim/guess as an argument against interim regulations is really disingenuous since TOTE is leaving themselves the option to burn three different types of fuel on these “cleaner burning ships” – and they will not be mandated to burn the supposed cleaner fuel. They will be able to burn whatever makes the most economic sense at any given moment in time. So, even if their prediction comes true, unless there is a mandate that makes them buy/use the cleaner burning ships and run only the cleaner burning fuel, we will be here 30 years from now and my kids will be cleaning up their mess. There is no guarantee that we will see the environmental benefit of this supposedly ‘clean’ fuel – which comes from fracking!

I found particularly concerning the comments made about the tax benefits the port generates. I don’t think these people are really paying attention to what is going on with taxes required of industry these days. Tax breaks abound for industry. PSE got a huge tax break on natural gas. In fact, earlier in the evening, a city councilman complained that the City coffers don’t really benefit that much from taxation. That’s an argument just doesn’t fish.

One of the speakers representing industry said that they support social justice, environmental and economic growth. If that’s true, where’s the proof? What are their actions? Their actions toward those of us who are speaking up are actually evidence to the contrary. I would welcome evidence of their actions that promote social and environmental justice.

One piece of information that I don’t want people to lose sight of is that we are here because the City of Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma are not transparent or responsible in the way they approve new projects on the port. They operate without valuable input from the public and chafe at any idea the public puts up that doesn’t align with their economic vision for the port. It’s not just that our environment can’t bear much more degradation, it’s also that the processes in place ignore the voice of the public and those processes are the result of group-think.

It is the right thing to do to pause the environmental degradation that is currently constantly proposed for the port and the tideflats.
The environment will not recover.
The economy will.
It’s a hard choice, but the outcomes for both people and the environment will be significantly better!

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