The "Super Six" protesters are moving toward a trial. This group of environmental activists was arrested on May 17 for chaining themselves to equipment at the construction site of Puget Sound Energy’s 8 million-gallon liquefied natural gas facility at the corner of East 11th and Alexander Avenue East on the Tideflats.
Sarah Morken, Jake Grote, Marilyn Kimmerling, Irene Morrison, Jeff Johnston and Cynthia Linet originally faced felony charges of malicious mischief in the first degree, criminal trespass in the first degree and obstruction in the first degree, but those felonies were downgraded to misdemeanor charges for obstruction and trespass. They were formally arraigned on June 9 amid protests outside the County-City Building. Their pre-trial hearing has been set for July 14. Protests by members of Redline Tacoma, Direct Action Tacoma and Rising Tide Seattle are in the works for every hearing along the process.
The six who are facing charges entered the 30-acre construction site and used bike locks to chain themselves to an auger used to drive deep holes into the ground. Construction crews were not allowed to start work for the day, so they called police to have the protestors removed from the private property while a gathering of protesters waved signs and live streamed videos from outside the fence line.
Protests at the site have been increasing in recent weeks. PSE is moving forward with construction of the facility as it seeks final permits under legal challenges. The site is projected to provide LNG to TOTE ships sailing between Tacoma and Alaska as well as provide storage for residential and business use during times of extreme weather.
Environmental groups and members of the Puyallup Tribe have long questioned the environmental impact of the facility on the waterway, the safety of a natural gas facility being located so close to residential areas and the overall impact of dependence on fossil fuels.
WATER PROTECTORS UNITE
On June 8, a coalition of more than half a dozen activist groups gathered at the Puyallup Tribe’s Youth and Community Center to formulate plans on how to turn up the heat in protest against the LNG fracked gas plant. Among those gathered included members of the Puyallup Tribe and other tribes, RedLine Tacoma, Tacoma Direct Action, Climate First Responders, Wiconi Wakan, Raging Grannies, Protectors of the Salish Sea and more.
“Now, other people are getting involved more than they were, so I think this thing is going to get bigger and make our elected officials and Puget Sound Energy more and more uncomfortable,” Morken said. “Until there is gas flowing through that thing, we still have a chance to stop it.”
She also stressed the significance of calling it a “fracked gas plant.”
“We’re calling to a ‘fracked gas plant’ because so many people don’t know what LNG means. If you say ‘liquid natural gas’ it sounds so benign, and it’s really not benign. We’re treating this as the environmental emergency that it really is.”
Morkin said spirits remain high among the Super Six. “We don’t have any regrets about what we did. I grew up here, and it’s so beautiful with the wildlife and the water… I feel a responsibility to do something to stop these fossil fuel projects from being built. They shouldn’t be built anywhere, but here I can do something about it.”
On May 23, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and City Manager Elizabeth Pauli sent a letter to Puyallup Chairman Bill Sterud to formally invite the Tribe to partner with the city on the Tideflats subarea plan as outlined in a resolution the City Council passed on May 9. The resolution also expresses the city’s interest in beginning the negotiation process for an interlocal agreement to outline the partnership for the subarea planning effort including the respective roles and responsibilities of the City, Port and Puyallup Tribe.
In addition, on June 12 a letter was sent to Tacoma City Council and Port of Tacoma Commission in support of the leadership and critical role of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians in the sub area planning process and the urgency to pass an interim regulation that limit fossil fuel exports from the Tideflats. A sub area plan is a multi-year process that reviews land use rules, zoning codes, development policies and visions for a specific area. The costs of a sub area plan is estimated to be about $ 1 million that would be split between the city and the port once an agreement is formalized.
Signatures on the tribal inclusion letter were Becky Kelley, President of Washington Environmental Council; Shannon Murphy, President of Washington Conservation Voters; Gregg Small, Executive Director of Climate Solutions; Dorothy Walker, Chair of the Sierra Club Tatoosh of Pierce County; Aaron Ostrom, Executive Director of Fuse Washington; Eric de Place, Policy Director of Sightline Institute; Andrea Brewer, Chair of Sustainable Tacoma Commission; Laura Skelton, MS, Executive Director of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility; Marian Berejikian, Executive Director of Friends of Pierce County; Rich Stolz, Executive Director of One America; Alex Ramel, Field Director of Stand.earth; Taylor Wonhoff, Chairperson of Surfrider Foundation South Sound Chapter; Bruce Hoeft, Conservation Committee Chair of Tahoma Audubon; and Steven J. Kelly, Senior Organizer of Pierce County Activist Council.
The letter reads in part:
“We strongly support the Tacoma City Council for including the Puyallup Tribe of Indians as a co-equal partner in this process and deeply disagree with Port of Tacoma Commissioners’ recent vote to remove the Puyallup Tribe. Since time immemorial the Puyallup Tribe of Indians have existed on the banks of Commencement Bay and naturally have held explicit vested treaty rights within the Tideflats that sets it apart from being a simple stakeholder. With the Puyallup Tribe’s Reservation encompassing most of the Tideflats and surrounding area, omitting the Puyallup Tribe of the sub-area planning process would be shortsighted and incomplete.
“Additionally, as a significant land owner in the Tideflats the Puyallup Tribe has future development plans that urge the need for their participation. The Puyallup Tribe has large economic interests in the Tideflats as an administrator of a foreign trade zone and one of the top five major employers in the region. The 1989 Land Claim Settlement, a legally binding agreement, compels the City and the Port to consult meaningfully with the Tribe on all matters that relate to major land use decisions, which include the sub-area plan. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians has and continues to be great stewards of this land. Removing the Tribe’s co-equal role in the leadership, scoping, development and future implementation of the plan does not reflect the legally binding agreement.
“Our vision is not to be the fossil fuel superhighway of the west coast. We applaud the City’s leadership and urge the Port to work with the City and the Puyallup Tribe as co-equals in the sub-area planning process for the Tideflats. At the same time, we ask that all parties work together to urgently put in place interim regulations on fossil fuel exports. These two actions will ensure Tacoma has the full ability to create the future for the Tideflats that best maximize our area’s assets and potential. We look forward to your leadership of a visionary, cleaner, healthier and more prosperous Tacoma.”