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Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some frequently asked questions relating to environmental review of the project.  For answers and more information, please click on the questions posted below.

 

Administrative and Procedural Questions

What are the Relevant State and Local Laws?

This section is a reference section with links to the Tacoma Municipal Code and the Washington Administrative Code. It does not represent all applicable regulations related to SEPA. Please note: the controlling laws and regulations for this FEIS are the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and Washington Administrative Code (WAC). The Federal Law for NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and associated CFR’s (Code of Federal Regulations) are not applicable in this case.

 

Washington State Law and Administrative Code (WAC)

 

RCW 43.21C.060 Chapter supplementary—Conditioning or denial of governmental action
WAC 197-11-050 [SEPA] Lead Agency
WAC 197-11-405 EIS Types
WAC 197-11-420 EIS Preparation
WAC 197-11-444 Elements of the environment
WAC 197-11-500 Inviting Comment
WAC 197-11-600 When to use existing environmental documents
WAC 197-11-620 Supplemental environmental impact statement—Procedures
WAC 197-11-660 Substantive Authority and Mitigation
WAC 197-11-938(9) Lead Agencies for Specific Proposals

 

Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC)

 

TMC 1.06.181  Administration and Personnel: Planning and Development Services Department. 
TMC 13.05.020 Land Use Permit Procedures: Notice process.
TMC 13.12.530 Environmental Code: EIS Preparation

 

Why did the LNG Project Require an EIS?

With major development projects, an applicant tells the City during the Pre-Application process that they would like to obtain permits. When the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Official determines that there are likely to be significant adverse impacts to one or more elements of the environment, he or she will make a “determination of significance” which means the applicant must go through an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. (“Elements of the Environment” are defined in State law and include both the natural environment, like plants and water quality, and the human environment, like noise and aesthetics).

 

In the case of Puget Sound Energy (PSE), the City and PSE mutually agreed that an EIS was necessary. The Determination of Significance (DS) was issued based on a determination that potential impacts to public safety and traffic need the in-depth study an EIS would provide.

 

The Tacoma Municipal Code specifically designates Planning and Development Services as the department to issue and revoke all building permits. When a permit is applied for, or when the intent to apply is stated, the City must also ensure that the required environmental review takes place as background information for all decisions on the permits.

Why was the City of Tacoma the "SEPA Lead Agency"?

The SEPA Lead Agency, as described in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC), is the government agency that has the main responsibility for complying with SEPA’s requirements. The designated lead agency is responsible for the SEPA threshold determination, and for preparing an EIS.

 

For certain large proposals, the Washington State Department of Ecology (ECY) is offered the opportunity to be Lead. In the case of the LNG facility, because the storage capacity exceeds one million gallons, ECY would have been the lead agency automatically. However, ECY can defer Lead Agency status. When this happens, ECY then takes on the responsibility of conferring with all interested parties to determine the most appropriate Lead.

 

After being provided with the full scope of the LNG project, other permitting agencies (these included other local cities, Pierce County, and other state agencies) declined Lead Agency status. ECY concluded that the City of Tacoma had the capacity to manage the EIS. All Lead Agency determinations were made official in writing on August 6, 2014.

 

The City is in the best position to represent local interests and factors that are unique to a development situation. The ability to represent local policy and planning values in environmental review is strengthened by the process being lead by local leadership.

 

It is important to note that by deferring Lead Agency status to another agency, other permitting agencies do not give up their responsibility for environmental review. Each permitting agency in the State of Washington has to ensure that the environmental review for a project meets its standards and needs for its permitting process. In other words, the multiple agencies reviewing the LNG proposal had to be comfortable with adopting the City’s environmental review.

 

These agencies were invited to comment and participate in the scoping process, the Draft EIS, and the Final EIS. If at any time other agencies determined the review did not meet their permitting requirements, they could have petitioned for Lead status. In addition, during the process of reviewing an existing EIS for additional permits by other agencies, if that agency ever determined its concerns were not addressed, they could ask for a Supplemental EIS to address those concerns.

 

According to the WAC, the Lead Agency may have an EIS prepared by staff, by the applicant, or by an outside consultant hired by either the applicant or the lead agency. This is also set forth in the City’s environmental code. Due to the amount of time and expertise required to complete a thorough EIS, the City engaged an environmental consultant to prepare the EIS. The City conducted a request for qualification (RFQ) process, interviewed three applicant teams, and selected the final consulting team. While PSE reimbursed the City’s costs for the EIS, the process at all times was managed by City staff, and other reviewing agencies.

How is the City of Tacoma an Impartial Lead Agency?

For the PSE LNG facility, there were four possible lead agencies: Port of Tacoma, City of Tacoma, Department of Ecology, and the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC). EFSEC determined that it did not have jurisdiction and Ecology deferred to the City. The City has responsibility for fire, emergency response and law enforcement within the Port of Tacoma; based on mutual agreement, the City assumed lead agency status. To prepare the EIS, the City of Tacoma issued a request for proposals to select a third-party consultant and a review of potential conflicts of interest was conducted during the interview process to ensure impartiality.

What are the Limits of an EIS?

The purpose of the Environmental Impact Statement and the related review is to figure out potential project impacts. An EIS requires a study of multiple items that may be impacted by the proposal. These items are called “elements of the environment” and are laid out in state law. In addition, the EIS has very specific procedural requirements. An EIS must include public input and agency review while still providing some predictability and clarity for the applicant.

 

Washington State law allows for something called “SEPA substantive authority” which means an agency can modify, mitigate, or deny a proposal based upon its environmental impacts. Mitigation may involve almost anything, such as paying impact fees to local school districts, or changing the design of the project to avoid impacts to wetlands or other sensitive areas. Other mitigation may be required by city or county development regulations, or other local, state, or federal laws. Mitigation can also be based on information about adverse environmental impacts in the SEPA document.

 

However, as noted in the state law, all conditions “shall be based upon policies identified by the appropriate governmental authority and incorporated into regulations, plans, or codes which are formally designated by the agency.” This means that any mitigation has to be supported by adopted codes and policies (usually in a comprehensive plan or another planning document).

 

An EIS is not a permit decision – approval or denial. No development can occur once a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is issued. An FEIS is simply a background document, and individual development permits are still required. Some examples include building permits, air quality permits, stormwater discharge permits, and fire protection permits. The EIS provides information that would allow development permits to be approved, approved with conditions, or denied.

 

Multiple agencies, including the City, will review a development proposal for compliance with all regulations, in addition to any conditions that are required by the environmental review or by other applicable codes. The LNG proposal has several required mitigation measures (for transportation and public safety impacts). In addition, each individual permit will be (or has been) reviewed for compliance with all applicable codes and policies. 

What Public Process was used for the PSE Project?

Public notice of the EIS process was provided as required by the Tacoma Municipal Code and the Washington Administrative Code. The best source for information is the SEPA fact sheet for the FEIS as well as the comments/response section of the FEIS (Chapter 4), and the distribution list (Appendix B).

 

Mailing/Scoping:

  • The mailing list for the Determination of Significance went to approximately 385 people; it was emailed to an additional 25-30 people who were agency, community group, and neighborhood representatives. (This included the Muckleshoot and Puyallup Tribes.)
  • There were 28 people who signed up at the scoping meeting on September 24, 2014, but there may have been more in attendance.
  • The City received five comment letters about the scope of the EIS. Three additional comment sheets were filled out at the meeting.

Mailing/DEIS:

  • The Draft EIS Comment Period ran from July 7, 2015 to August 17, 2015. The Notice of the DEIS was mailed out to about 425 people on July 7, 2015, and emailed to an additional (approximately) 40 people who were agency representatives and neighborhood or community group representatives.
  • A Permit Agency meeting was held July 9, 2015
  • The public meeting on the DEIS (July 16, 2015) had about 29 people sign in. More people may have been there.
  • The City received about 25 letters commenting on the DEIS. At the meeting, four people filled out comment sheets.

Mailing/EIS:

  • The Notice of the FEIS was mailed October 26, 2015
  • A comment letter (Citizens for a Healthy Bay) was omitted, and the re-issued FEIS was sent out by notice on November 9, 2015
  • The notice of the FEIS availability was mailed (both times) to about 500 people and emailed to about 60 more people.
  • The Notice of Action (when the City issued the demolition permit) was mailed November 19, 2015 and published in the paper three times (November 19, 23 and 30). Issuance of the demolition permit started the EIS appeal period, which ended on December 21, 2015
  • The shoreline permit was issued along with the initial demolition permits.

Other Outreach:

  • Two meetings were held specifically with the NE Tacoma Neighborhood Council; staff attended additional meetings at which the project was discussed.
  • Two meetings (and multiple conversations) were held with all the permitting agencies including the Coast Guard, Corps of Engineers, Ecology, Fish & Wildlife, Fire, etc.
  • A staff meeting and a government-to-government consultation were held with the Puyallup Tribal Council.
  • The News Tribune was copied on all notices and ran two semi-related stories in 2014.

 

What About PSE’s Request to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) to Change Ownership/Regulation of Facility?

Ownership of the facility will not impact the construction or operation of the facility, and review of permits and implementation of mitigation will not vary if ownership changes. Any other financial or legal impacts of an ownership change would be under the authority of the WUTC.

 

Is Puget LNG's ownership of the project an attempt to avoid full state oversight?

Regardless of ownership the construction and operation of the Tacoma LNG facility will be under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission under authority delegated to them by the Federal Department of Transportation’s Petroleum and Hazardous Material Safety Administration.

What permits are needed, and what are the Permitting Agencies?

Federal Agency Permit/Approvals/Consultations
U.S. Department of Transportation as - WUTC Office of Pipeline Safety WUTC issues agency approval of design elements consistent with  49 CFR Parts 192 and 193, the federal safety standards
U.S. Department of the Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District (USACE) Section 10 (Rivers and Harbors Act)
Section  404 (Clean Water Act) Individual Permit
Section 106 NHPA Consultation
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Letter of Recommendation (33 CFR Part 127)
National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries)
Section 7 of Endangered Species Act
Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act
Marine Mammal Protection Act. Level B harassment authorization
Special Purpose District Permit/Approvals
Port of Tacoma Tenant Improvement Procedure
State Agency
Permit/Approvals
Department of Ecology (Ecology)
NPDES – Construction Stormwater General Permit
NPDES Industrial Stormwater General Permit
Coastal Zone Consistency Determination
401 Water Quality Certification
Spill Prevention and Spill Response Plan (CWA, 33 U.S.C.§1321(j))
Hazardous Chemical Inventory Reporting Requirements
Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) Hydraulic Project Approval
Washington State Dept of Transportation
State Highway Crossing Permit
Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP)
Section 106 Consultation in coordination with lead federal agency
Archaeological Excavation Permit, if required.
Tribes
Permit/Approvals
Puyallup Tribe of Indians
Section 106 Consultation in coordination with lead federal agency
Local Government
Permit/Approvals
Pierce County
Street use or Right-of-Way Use Permit
Conditional Use Permit
Construction (Clear & Grade) Permit
Building Permit
Critical Areas Review
City of Fife
Right of Way permit, Utility permit
Flood permit, if applicable.
Critical Areas Review

Which entity reviews safety and disaster preparedness plans?

The Tacoma LNG facility is required to have a safety and emergency response plan (the plan) that is reviewed by the State Utilities and Transportation Commission and the Tacoma Fire Department. The City of Tacoma maintains a comprehensive emergency management plan that incorporates the Port of Tacoma’s Port Emergency Warning System (PEWS). In the event of a potential disaster, PEWS would be activated and the Tacoma LNG facility would implement emergency shutdown procedures and evacuate the facility.

Is There a Conflict of Interest if CB&I Performed the Safety Study and Received the Contract to Conduct Safety Oversight During Site Operation?

CB&I was selected by PSE to construct the LNG facility and along with PSE it has the responsibility to ensure the facility is constructed pursuant to federal, state, and City of Tacoma requirements including the  health and safety of the workers on-site. However, the construction of the facility will also be subject to oversight and inspections by the Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission and the City of Tacoma Fire Department. All safety design studies are reviewed and approved by governmental regulatory agencies and shall comply with requirements and standards set in place regardless of who completed them.

Was commenting during the drafting of the EIS insufficient?

This question has been addressed. Please see the FAQ, 'What Public Process Was Used for the PSE Project?' for a summary of the public commenting and input process.

Which Agencies and Personnel Were Contacted During the Commenting Stage? Were Nearby Cities Invited to Comment?

Below is a list of the agency, county, city, and tribal representatives that were invited to comment on the EIS. Other staff from the agencies have been involved in review and commenting on various permits:

 

Contact Agency/Organization
Marcia Lucero Pierce County
Marv Coleman Washington Department of Ecology
Matt Curtis Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife
Mike Fitzgerald Tacoma Fire Department
Olivia Romano U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Pete Townsend Washington Department of Transportation
Rick Albright U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Russell Blount City of Fife
Ryan Erickson Tacoma Fire Department
Scott Sission Pierce County
Shandra O'Haleck National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Steve Friddle City of Fife
Tony Warfield Port of Tacoma
Virginia Cross Muckleshoot Indian Tribe
Josh Diekmann Tacoma Public Works
Justin Belk Tacoma Public Works
Bill Sterud Puyallup Tribe of Indians

 

  

Permits and the FEIS

Will the City Be Issuing an SEIS?

The City has received several requests to require a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) based upon the change in scope of the PSE LNG proposal. In short, PSE modified its own proposal through a stipulation filed with the Shorelines Hearings Board which removed the proposed work in the Hylebos Waterway – other than outfall maintenance, shoreline maintenance, and structure removal. (See FAQ 'What is Included in the Shoreline Permitting' for more information.)

 

Subsequent to the Shorelines Hearings Board’s decision, the City asked for clarification from PSE related to the change in scope, in order to address continued concerns that PSE would be increasing activity in the Blair Waterway, and increasing truck traffic to distribute the LNG to additional customers. 

 

PSE provided a clarifying response. In summary, the infrastructure in the Blair Waterway is unique to the design of the TOTE ships and cannot be used for other ships or for bunker barges. Further, no additional truck traffic other than that described/analyzed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) will take place from the PSE site.

 

In summary, changes in the PSE project scope have been reductions. SEIS are warranted when there are increases in scope or changes which would otherwise substantially affect the analysis in the FEIS. No such changes have taken place to date.

 

What Would Trigger a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) sets forth the types of Environmental Impact Statements. The WAC says an SEIS: "shall be prepared as an addition to either a draft or final statement if: (a) There are substantial changes to a proposal so that the proposal is likely to have significant adverse environmental impacts; or (b) There is significant new information indicating, or on, a proposal's probable significant adverse environmental impacts."

 

Preparation rules for an SEIS are in the WAC, which states "an SEIS shall be prepared in the same way as a draft and final EIS (WAC 197-11-400 to 197-11-600), except that scoping is optional. The SEIS should not include analysis of actions, alternatives, or impacts that is in the previously prepared EIS." This means the scope of an SEIS would be limited to only a review of the new information or the changes in the proposal.

To date, the only changes from the LNG proposal  set forth in the FEIS have been reductions in scope and impacts; thus there is not cause to believe that a reduced-scale project would have additional significant adverse impacts. To date, no new information has been discovered which would alter the original analyses of the Elements of the Environment as contained in the FEIS.

 

It should be noted that, under Washington law, the adequacy of an EIS is measured by the "rule of reason" which requires a reasonably thorough discussion of the significant aspects of the likely environmental consequences of a proposed project. SEPA does not require analysis of every possible impact, nor does it require inclusion of specific remedies for all identified environmental impacts. An EIS is intended to be an aid to the decision making process; not to be a collection of every possible effect or alternative to a proposed project.

What is the State Department of Ecology’s Role in Determining the Need for a SEIS?

The Department of Ecology ("Ecology" or "ECY") has the ability to comment on Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) processes even where it has not taken the role of the SEPA lead agency. ECY did, in fact, review the Puget Sound Energy EIS before it was finalized. ECY made a number of comments on the Draft EIS for the PSE project. The City addressed these comments in the Final EIS, and in issuing the shoreline permit. ECY was reviewing the DEIS from two perspectives: (1) adequacy for the purposes of SEPA; and (2) as a direct permitting agency for various other permits on the project.
 
The FEIS is a foundational document in the review and issuance of these later state permits, the same as with the shoreline permit. Ecology voiced no concerns with the FEIS as issued. City staff has had multiple, recent conversations with Ecology staff inquiring as to whether the agency finds anything in the EIS inadequate, and in light of PSE’s revisions which reduce the scope of its project. The consistent answer from Ecology has been that the project reductions do not trigger the need for additional review. 
 
Two of the permits for the project, over which ECY has review and granting authority—the "401 Water Quality Certification" and the "Coastal Zone Consistency Determination"—are currently on appeal. Ecology has relied on the FEIS as issued, plus additional application materials, to make these permit decisions.  

The bottom line is that the City has consulted with Ecology staff whether Ecology thinks a Supplemental EIS is required for the project, and the answer has been "no."

Will the City Issue Permits While an Appeal is Pending?

The City has received several requests to withhold development permits for the PSE Proposed LNG facility, consisting of a liquefaction plant at the PSE site and fueling infrastructure at the TOTE site. (These sites are addressed as 1001 Alexander Ave. E. and 3115 East 11th St., respectively.)

 

A portion of the work is subject to a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit (SSDP), the issuance of which has been affirmed by written decision of the Washington Shoreline Hearings Board (SHB) after an appeal by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. The actions that might follow under the SSDP depend upon other agency actions. The SHB decision was appealed on August 16, 2016 by the Puyallup Tribe.  

 

Under state law, unless the appellant obtains a stay while the appeal is pending, the permit applicant is entitled to rely on the last decision rendered — in this case the decision of the SHB upholding the SSDP as modified by PSE’s voluntary reduction in scope.  What that means is that, even though there is an additional appeal pending, PSE could proceed with its project under the SSDP as upheld by the SHB, but would do so at the risk of later reversal in the pending appeal. At present, there is no stay in place, nor is there any request for a stay pending decision by the court.

 

The City previously stated that “from a practical standpoint, no permits for work within 200 feet of the Ordinary High Water Mark (the shoreline jurisdiction) will be issued until the SHB decision is final...” Under applicable law, the SHB decision is now final. Typically, permit holders are reluctant to proceed with projects under appeal because of the risk of reversal, but as already stated, the permit holder can proceed at its own risk unless a stay is imposed.

 

A pending appeal alone is not grounds for the City to prevent a project from moving forward if the permits are valid under the last decision issued which is why the City previously posted that “When it has been determined that a proposal meets all regulations, permits must be issued. The City does not have the discretion to withhold a permit decision when all permit requirements have been met.” The SHB decision determined that all permit requirements have been met for the SSDP.

 

Permits issued under the SSDP will have to conform with SSDP requirements. That said, the City does not issue public notice regarding building permit review or when building permits are issued. Nothing requires this under applicable laws, due in part to the fact that issuing a building permit is not a discretionary function of the City. All permit statuses and issue dates are publicly available on the City’s permitting website at Tacoma Permits


PSE Safety Studies are not available to the public, despite judicial ruling and should be included in a Supplemental EIS. How were scenarios selected for analysis by the contractor, Chicago Bridge and Iron Company (CB&I)?

The safety modeling studies for the Tacoma LNG facility have been made public and are posted on the City of Tacoma’s Planning and Development Services website. This includes a "Siting Study Report," a Fire Protection Study," and "LNG Vapor Runs and 3D Video Simulations."

Spill scenarios are selected according to the federal requirements found in 49 CFR 193.2051 and the National Fire Protection Association 59A Standard for the Production, Storage, and Handling of Liquefied Natural Gas. Modeling of the scenarios was based on the facility design including the layout of the storage tank, piping systems, vaporizers, buildings, process equipment and other structures that meet the spacing criteria as specified in NFPA 59A.

Doesn’t the After-the-Fact Release of Safety Modeling Information Compel an SEIS?

The timing of the release of information does not affect the validity of either the FEIS or the permit review -- the FEIS did include a review of the siting study and hazard analysis by a third party with expertise in LNG; this review was referenced in the EIS. The siting study could have been requested at that time and the currently pending questions addressed while the EIS was still pending, but no request was made at that time.

 

Every permit will still be required to meet all regulations and standards of the City and all other agencies with a thorough review by our own staff as well as expert consultants as needed (along with the other State and Federal permitting agencies).

Will the City Include the Plymouth Incident in the Environmental Review?

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) team was aware of the 2014 explosion at the Williams LNG Liquefaction and Storage Facility near Plymouth, Washington. However, the only information available at that time and during the preparation of the Tacoma LNG EIS was that an explosion had occurred at the facility and that the LNG storage tanks were not compromised. Without further information, the affected environment, potential impacts, and mitigation measures could not be addressed. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Management Administration (PHMSA) and the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) conducted a lengthy study into the incident. However, the incident investigation report was not publicly released until April 28, 2016, five months after the Final EIS was completed.

 

The incident report concluded that the explosion at the Williams facility was the result of human error, not an equipment or LNG processing failure. During start-up, after the facility had been down for maintenance, the air in the system was not completely purged, resulting in a flammable air-gas mixture. The incident report also indicated that the explosion resulted in the loss of insulation and in debris damaging and penetrating the outer wall of one LNG storage tank, but did not penetrate the inner wall nor result in a direct release of LNG from the tank. However, an external pipe on the storage tank was cut off, causing a release of LNG that resulted in a vapor plume, but there was no fire or explosion related to the LNG release.

 

The PHMSA, the WUTC, and the Tacoma Fire Department will all review the final design and proposed operating procedures for the LNG facility. Authorizations, if issued by these agencies, will incorporate the mitigation and lessons learned from the Williams facility explosion. The PHMSA report summarizes the mitigation measures that the reviewing agencies can ensure are incorporated into the final design and operation of the Tacoma LNG facility.

 

How will the WUTC Transportation Recommendations Issued Following the Plymouth Accident be Incorporated into Site Planning? Can the Recommendations and Lessons-Learned Be Added to the FEIS in an Addendum?

Following the 2014 explosion at the Williams LNG liquefaction and storage facility near Plymouth, Washington, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Management Administration (PHMSA) and the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) conducted a lengthy study into the incident.

The PHMSA, UTC, and the Tacoma Fire Department are tasked to review the final design and proposed operating procedures for the Tacoma LNG facility. Authorizations, if issued by these agencies, can incorporate the mitigation and lessons learned from the Williams facility explosion as listed in the PHMSA report, “Summary of Return-to-Service.” 

Instead of including the PHMSA report as an addendum to the FEIS, it would be more effective for permitting agencies to incorporate the lessons learned/mitigation into permit conditions using their “Substantive Authority” under SEPA; see WAC 197-11-660.

Would new potential federal regulations and new understanding of the hazards posed by hydrocarbons trigger an SEIS?

Potential changes in Federal regulations governing construction and operation of LNG facilities would not trigger the need for SEIS. However, the LNG facility would be required to comply with new regulations if they are promulgated prior to construction of the facility.

Where does the Permit Application Process Currently Stand and What are the Next Steps?

The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review and EIS is not a permit and does not substitute for permit review. It is a process to help decision makers understand the environmental impacts of the proposed project. The EIS also develops information that is used to support permit review and development of mitigation measures related to potential impacts in reference to matters such as transportation, fire, health, and safety. Key permits for this project include the City of Tacoma Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, Pierce County Conditional Use Permit, Department of Ecology Water Quality Certification and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Section 10 and 404 permits.

 

Click here to see a list of required permits and contact people for each agency and jurisdiction.

 

PSE has applied for demolition and site development permits for soil stabilization at the site. It has begun to apply for development permits including foundations and trenching.

PSE has applied for and received its conditional use permit from Pierce County for the natural gas pipeline. It has also completed its Waterway Suitability Analysis through the Coast Guard (although this may be more of an ongoing process). Washington Utilities Transportation Commission (WUTC) review and approval is ongoing. 

PSE will be required to provide permits, documentation of “clearance” from agencies, or other notices to proceed from permitting agencies prior to receiving development permits from the City of Tacoma.

A portion of the work is subject to a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit (SSDP), which was previously issued by the City. After an appeal by the Puyallup Tribe (August 16, 2016) it was upheld by the Washington Shorelines Hearing Board (SHB) and is now on appeal to the Court of Appeals. The actions that might follow under the SSDP depend upon other agency actions.

Under state law, unless the appellant obtains a stay while an appeal is pending, the permit applicant is entitled to rely on the last decision rendered – in this case, the decision of the SHB upholding the SSDP as modified by PSE’s voluntary removal of the proposed Hybelos pier barging facility. This means that even though there is an additional appeal pending, PSE could proceed with its project under the SSDP as upheld by the SHB, but would do so at the risk of later reversal in the pending appeal. At present, there is no stay in place, nor is there any request for a stay pending. 

The City previously stated that “from a practical standpoint, no permits for work within 200 feet of the Ordinary High Water Mark (the shoreline jurisdiction) will be issued until the SHB decision is final...” Under applicable law, the SHB decision is now final. Typically, permit holders are reluctant to proceed with projects under appeal because of the risk of reversal, but as already stated, the permit holder can proceed at its own risk unless a stay is imposed.
 
A pending appeal alone is not grounds for the City to prevent a project from moving forward if the permits are valid under the last decision issued, which is why the City previously posted that “When it has been determined that a proposal meets all regulations, permits must be issued. The City does not have the discretion to withhold a permit decision when all permit requirements have been met.” The SHB decision determined that all permit requirements have been met for the SSDP. 
 
Development permits issued under the SSDP will have to conform with SSDP requirements. That said, the City does not issue public notice regarding building permit review or when building permits are issued. Nothing requires this under applicable laws, due in part to the fact that issuing a building permit is not a discretionary function of the City. All permit statuses and issuance dates are publicly available on the City’s permitting website at www.TacomaPermits.org

Additionally, the City will not issue permits for any development related to bunker barging at the Hylebos. Because that portion of work has been removed from the shoreline permit, any future proposed work along the shoreline related to bunkering (or any other development) would require additional shoreline permitting.

What is the timeline for the LNG tank construction?

A current permit list and status can be found on the permit status web page. PSE expects the facility to be constructed and in operation by the first quarter of 2019.

In light of the changes to the scope, should the project alternatives be reviewed?

The scope of the proposed project as described in the FEIS remains materially the same. The only change is that PSE has stipulated that it will not construct the barge pier on the Hybelos waterway.  Even though constructing the barge pier on the Hybelos has been withdrawn from the shoreline permit it does not change the analysis of alternatives.

Can Addendums Be Added to the FEIS?

Yes. Addendums can be added to a FEIS. See WAC 197-11-625.

Why does the City Have Confidence in the Blast Zone Map Described in the EIS?

The term “blast zone” does not occur in the EIS, nor is it shown on a figure in the EIS. The actual terms found in the EIS, “vapor dispersion” and “thermal radiation,” are defined and discussed below. It should be noted that for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) (methane) vapor release in an unconfined environment that results in ignition, the speed at which a flame travels back to the source is too slow to support a blast (explosion). Therefore, ignition of methane in an open space will create a fire until fuel is consumed but will not cause a blast (explosion). Since a blast involving methane is not possible in an unconfined space, the federal codes and design standards that govern vapor dispersion and thermal radiation that may result from an uncontrolled release do not address a blasting scenario for accidental releases of gas or LNG.

 

Vapor dispersion and thermal radiation are defined in the federal code (49 Code of Federal Regulations 193 and National Fire Protection Association 59A) for “siting” LNG facilities. “Siting,” as required by the code, refers to the study of an LNG facility that evaluates safety distance setbacks from property lines to prevent offsite impacts.

  • Vapor Dispersion: Federal code requirements limit the maximum allowable concentration of flammable gas in the air to 50% of the lower flammability limit at the property line. The 50% lower flammability limit of methane is 2.5% of the air concentration. The lower flammability limit for methane (as LNG) is 5%. At concentrations below 5%, the mixture is too lean to sustain a fire.
  • Thermal Radiation: Siting requirements for thermal radiation are defined by an accidental release of LNG that becomes a vapor and is ignited and a fire occurs. In this scenario, the regulations stipulate that the maximum allowable rate of heat energy that will pass through a surface (heat flux) from the resulting fire as measured at the property line cannot exceed 1,600 British thermal units per square foot per hour.

Vapor dispersion and thermal radiation “siting studies” for LNG facilities are required by federal code to evaluate process equipment, transfer areas, and storage in such facilities. To prevent offsite impacts from an unlikely, but worst case, accidental release scenario, the code requires extensive modeling that considers location-specific conditions to demonstrate that required minimum safety distance setbacks from property lines have been achieved under all credible scenarios and conditions.

 

The computer models for vapor dispersion and thermal radiation have undergone extensive international reviews over many years and have been compared to empirical data to demonstrate that the results are indicative of actual conditions. Modeling results are considered “conservative” in analyzing conditions, regarded by regulators and users as reliable, and representative of actual conditions that could occur. Modeling results for vapor dispersion and thermal radiation are an integral and important part of the permitting and approval processes, where a project only obtains approval when all requirements are met or exceeded.

 

The software used to model the methane concentrations at the property boundary for the Tacoma LNG project is that prescribed by U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The results of the modeling have been validated by third party researchers under contract to PHMSA. The methodology used to evaluate the various failure scenarios is also prescribed by the PHMSA and accepted by the industry as best practice.

The prevention of accidental releases under all operating conditions is the highest priority of the LNG code, and the resulting design provides with robust, redundant layers of protection. In the event of an accidental release, the next priority is timely detection and appropriate responses to minimize its impact. The Tacoma LNG plant is designed with secondary spill containment to prevent any spilled LNG from leaving the property. The design includes different spill detection devices to alert the operating personnel if a spill occurs. The detection devices include gas detection, flame detection, and low-temperature detection. A written emergency response plan is maintained, and responses are practiced to ensure that the plant personnel are prepared to manage any emergency.

 

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) and the Tacoma Fire Department share oversight authority for the Tacoma LNG project. The WUTC participates as an approved state partner of the PHMSA. These state partners approve LNG facility designs and siting of new LNG facilities and provide ongoing regulatory oversight and regular inspections during operations. The role of the WUTC and Tacoma Fire Department is to protect the public, ensuring that the LNG facility is safe, reliable, and functioning according to operational codes and requirements. The PHMSA provides regular training and funding for its state partners to provide uniform enforcement of LNG standards across the country.

Like other jurisdictions, the City of Tacoma relies on knowledgeable regulatory authorities with direct technical oversight responsibilities and industry experts to design and construct safe, reliable LNG facilities that meet all the applicable LNG codes and standards. The design proposed for Tacoma LNG is planned to be very robust, and in many ways, should exceed design standards and expectations, thus providing confidence the design is safe for all credible scenarios.

Is financial stability and capability of the SEPA applicant assessed when developing an EIS?

Financial stability/capability of an applicant is not a required part of the EIS process. The EIS addresses the affected natural and built environment, significant impacts and proposed mitigation. However, the corporate structure and financial information of an applicant can be requested as part of a permit application. Financial assurances can also be proposed as mitigation in an EIS, where appropriate.

Should the economic data in the Purpose and Need section of the EIS be updated to reflect changes in the LNG market?

The Tacoma LNG project will not be an export facility, and as proposed, would not have the capacity to compete in the global LNG market. Instead, the facility will be used regionally as a peak-day resource for natural gas customers and as maritime transportation fuel to be used by TOTE at its Port of Tacoma facility. The facility is subject to regional supply and demand. PSE should be able to accommodate for market fluctuations by scaling LNG production up or down.

How would you verify the data accounting for tsunami hazards using NOAA modeling?

The data and information in the FEIS on a potential tsunami impacting the site was based on the Tsunami Hazard Map of Tacoma, WA (Walsh, et al, 2009). The mapping information and inundation estimates are based upon events at all three faults in the area. The studies in the EIS used the tsunami speed and height estimates in the review of the proposal.

It is important to note that the map lists many limitations of the studies and estimates.

The Tacoma LNG facility will be constructed to meet the most stringent earthquake standards for the Puget Sound region and be reinforced for protection from a tsunami that could potentially be generated by an earthquake at the Seattle fault. This would protect the facility from structural damage. Further, the plant has been designed so that all power supply systems, backup systems, and control systems are above the predicted inundation levels.

In the event of an earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the Port of Tacoma’s Emergency Warning System would be activated and the Tacoma LNG facility would activate its emergency shutdown procedures and evacuate personnel.

Why does the EIS not account for greenhouse gas emissions during extraction, transmission, and processing of LNG?

Scoping is the first step in an EIS process and is intended to narrow the focus of the EIS to significant issues, eliminate insignificant impacts, and identify alternatives to the proposal. Any impacts associated with natural gas extraction, processing and transportation to the PSE natural gas system were considered too remote to the actual impacts of the project in and around the project site, and in the City of Tacoma generally, to legitimately be part of the scope of the EIS. Through the scoping process, and following consultation and comment from other agencies with expertise, the City of Tacoma determined that the greenhouse gas emissions evaluation would be limited to the Tacoma LNG facility and TOTE Marine Vessel LNG Fueling system.

  

Project Description and Scope

What does PSE Have Land Use Entitlements for (i.e., What Do They Have in Their Shoreline Permit and What Has Been Analyzed in the FEIS)?

Shoreline: PSE has permission through a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit (SSDP) to request development permits for one loading arm and loading platform at the TOTE site. This includes a cryogenic pipe from their liquefaction facility, a fueling arm, and the required water-side facility for the fueling arm (including containment). The current shoreline permit on the Hylebos waterway, as reduced from what was originally proposed, is limited to stormwater outfall repair and improvements as well as demolition of the deck on the existing pier, shoreline vegetation, some grading/graveling, and security fencing.

 

According to PSE and TOTE, the configuration of the fueling arm is unique to the TOTE ships, and a conventional bunker barge could not be fueled using this infrastructure. Further, the TOTE site does not have moorage facilities or shoreline permit approval for construction to accommodate a bunker barge.

 

The City has specifically asked PSE to discuss what further permitting would be needed to accommodate bunker barging at the site. Without knowing what kind of vessels would propose to use the site, the permitting path cannot be determined.

 

However, it is recognized by all parties that additional shoreline permitting and public review, as well as additional review by the Coast Guard (which has authority over vessels) would be required.

 

The Shoreline Hearings Board (SHB) upheld the City’s permitting decision following a week-long hearing in May of 2016. This SHB decision was appealed by the Puyallup Tribe on August 16, 2016. The next hearing for the Shoreline Permit will be set sometime in 2017. Under state law, unless the petitioner obtains a stay while the appeal is pending, the permit applicant is entitled to rely on the last decision — in this case the decision of the SHB upholding the City’s decision. (A “stay” means to stop something temporarily through a court order.)  What that means is that, even though there is an additional appeal pending, PSE can proceed with its project under the SSDP, but would do so at the risk of later reversal in the pending appeal. At this time, there is no stay in place, nor is there any request for a stay pending decision by the court.

 

Upland – PSE Site: This is the site on the east side of Alexander, neighboring the Hylebos Waterway. The EIS analyzed the environmental impacts of the liquefaction facility. This includes an LNG storage tank, the liquefaction facility (refrigerants propane, isopentane, and ethylene), the cryogenic pipeline and loading facility for TOTE, and two truck loading bays on the west side of the facility. Up to two tanker trucks per day would arrive empty at the Tacoma LNG Facility and leave carrying LNG to market, generally to a local user. (The EIS also analyzed a bunkering facility in the Hylebos, which has since been removed from the proposal.)


Other Activities:
The proposal also includes extension of the existing natural gas distribution infrastructure with a new limit station and gate station in Pierce County, and approximately five miles of new pipeline (12"-16" diameter) in two segments (Pierce County, Fife, and Tacoma).

 

Current permitting: The following table shows the current status of development permits at the site. PSE has begun demolition of structures, utility and ground improvements, and tenant improvements to one building at the site. PSE has yet to apply for permits for the development of the LNG facility. These permits are expected to consist of one or more foundation and trenching permits as well as the building permit for the tank itself. All permits may be viewed on our permits portal by entering the permit number in the search field.

What is Included in the Shoreline Permitting?

On the Blair Waterway: PSE has the authorization to request development permits for one loading arm and one loading platform at the TOTE site.

 

This includes one cryogenic pipe from their liquefaction facility, a fueling arm, and the necessary water-side facility for the fueling arm (including containment). The configuration of the fueling arm is unique to the TOTE ships and a conventional bunker barge could not be fueled using this infrastructure. The TOTE site does not have moorage facilities or shoreline permit approval for construction to accommodate a bunker barge.

 

On the Hylebos Waterway: PSE will work on stormwater outfall repair and improvements as well as demolition of the deck on the existing pier, adding shoreline vegetation, some grading/graveling, and security fencing, all of which are environmental mitigation measures.

 

It is recognized by all parties that additional shoreline permitting, environmental assessment, and public review, as well as additional review by the Coast Guard (which has authority over vessels) would likely be required for any non-de minimus work not currently within the (current and now reduced) scope of the shoreline permit.

 

When Will the City Officially Modify the Shoreline Permit and Project Description?

The appeal period for the Shoreline Hearings Board decision ended on August 17, 2016. Washington State rules for shoreline permits (WAC 173-27-140) require a revised permit to be filed with the Department of Ecology when the revisions are final (i.e., all appeals are complete and the decision is final). Once all appeal periods are over, the City will require a revised site plan and permit narrative from PSE, and that revision will be filed with the Department of Ecology. As stated above, all permits for work within the shoreline jurisdiction will be reviewed for compliance with this revised permit. For the FEIS, documents will be added to the file noting the reduction in scope of the shoreline proposal.

What is Included in Upland Locations?

The PSE site is the site on the east side of Alexander, abutting the Hylebos Waterway. The Environmental Impact Statement  (EIS) that was done analyzed the environmental impacts of the natural gas liquefaction facility. This includes an LNG storage tank, the liquefaction facility containing propane refrigerants, isopentane, and ethylene. Additionally the cryogenic pipeline and loading facility for TOTE, and two truck loading bays on the west side of the facility are included. 

 

Up to two tanker trucks per day would arrive empty at the LNG Facility and leave carrying LNG to market, generally to a local user. (The EIS also analyzed a bunkering facility in the Hylebos and that has since been removed from the scope of work.)

 

The proposal also includes an extension of the existing natural gas distribution infrastructure with a new limit station and gate station in Pierce County, and approximately five miles of new pipeline in two segments (Pierce County, Fife, and Tacoma).

 

Will the City Be Able to Open the Fire Station and Staff It?

Concerns were expressed that the fire station operation may not be feasible. The Tacoma Fire Department has confirmed that budgeted funds will be made available to renovate and re-open the fire station at East 11th Street and Taylor Way, and that project will begin upon the issuance of a permit for the construction of the PSE facility. The City is planning to staff that fire station with new tax revenues available from and contingent upon the construction of the PSE facility.

 

For more information, read the Tacoma Fire Department’s Proposed LNG Facility FAQs.

 

What budgetary safeguards will the City of Tacoma use to ensure that the fire station will not be closed?

Budgeted funds will be made available to renovate and re-open the fire station at 11th and Taylor Way, and that project will begin upon the issuance of a permit for the construction of the PSE facility. The City is planning to staff that fire station with assistance from new tax revenues available from and contingent upon the construction of the PSE facility.

For more information regarding Tacoma Fire Department and LNG, visit the TFD page.

Can the Project Change Without Additional Review?

The FEIS analyzed a defined scope of the project as proposed by Puget Sound Energy, which has been carried through to the Shoreline Substantial Development permit and other permits:

  • One loading arm and platform to serve only the TOTE vessels in the Blair Waterway;
  • Stormwater infrastructure and pier surface removal in the Hylebos Waterway;
  • Construction of the LNG liquefaction facility;
  • Extension of a natural gas pipeline to the site; and
  • Distribution of product using up to two tanker trucks per day.

When Puget Sound Energy submits a building permit it will be reviewed for consistency with the proposed project in the FEIS. If anything beyond that scope is proposed or there are substantive changes to the project that are likely to have significant adverse environmental impacts, additional review will be required to determine if the changes, and the likely impacts therefrom, are significant. For example, serving additional vessels in either the Blair or the Hylebos Waterway will require additional infrastructure in the shoreline, since that part of the project, as originally proposed, has now been removed. This will require a new shoreline permit (with a public notice and review process) and concurrent environmental review.

How Specifically has the Project Changed now that Operations Will not Occur in the Hylebos Waterway?

PSE has withdrawn from the shoreline permit for the construction of the pipeline and new pier for barging of LNG in the Hybelos Waterway. PSE’s original proposal to remove the surface of the existing Hylebos pier, without pulling the piles, is still part of the project as an environmental remedial measure.

Why not bury the 8 million gallon LNG storage tank underground, similar to developers in South Korea and Japan?

At the present time, there are no below ground LNG storage tanks in the US. Globally, more than 400 above ground LNG storage tanks have been constructed, where about 50 in-ground storage systems have been constructed principally in Japan and Korea. When selecting LNG storage tank technology there are many factors to consider before concluding the best option. In Japan and Korea, justifications that support below grade LNG tanks are: reduced seismic motion, multiple LNG tanks can have closer spacing, provides a lower profile that may be less of a target for offsite terrorist, and less view scape impacts from lower tank height.
 
The Tacoma LNG project is located between the Hybelos and Blair waterways and has a relatively shallow groundwater level. In addition, the project site is adjacent to former chemical manufacturing and other industries that resulted in groundwater contamination near the proposed LNG facility. The storage tank is proposed to be approximately 140 feet tall and 130 feet in diameter. Engineering and construction of such a deep and large cavern that could accommodate the tank would be very challenging given the soil types and groundwater intrusion that would occur. It would also potentially change the hydrodynamics of the groundwater contamination that could make recovery more difficult. For Tacoma LNG, site-specific design issues heavily influence technology decisions that make the below grade LNG tank option less attractive. The main concerns are due to the shallow groundwater table, potential groundwater contamination, potential tsunami risk, soil liquefaction that may occur during a seismic event and soil disposal of excavated materials. Many of these factors are a significant technical challenge for the Tacoma LNG project, and counterbalance the justification for choosing the below grade LNG tank type. 

For in-ground LNG tanks, maintenance of ground water levels to offset excess structural buoyancy forces and containment leaks is a technical challenge. To mitigate high groundwater, well points are often installed around the perimeter that require continuous groundwater pumping to maintain groundwater levels within design conditions. This can also significantly impact the flow of groundwater contamination.

For LNG tanks constructed in the US, seismic designs are held to extremely high design standards. Within accepted design practices there are various alternate means to mitigate seismic impacts. Lowering the LNG tank profile is one option; however, in the US, tank foundation isolation and dampening are typically utilized to relieve seismic impacts primarily due to groundwater issues when excavating near waterways. The Tacoma LNG tank foundation is proposed to be supported on improved soil and piles to prevent foundation settlement, mitigate seismic motion and prevent potential impacts from soil liquefaction.

Excavation of the large cavern required to accommodate this size of LNG tank would produce about 70,000 yards of soil requiring excavation, environmental evaluation for contaminates and offsite hauling by truck on public roads for disposal. This would delay the project and add cost for the additional tasks.

For concerns of the LNG tank as a terrorist target, the full containment reinforced concrete wall design is extremely robust and not penetrable by portable small arms fire, shoulder launched weapons or small aircraft.

The proposed full containment tank system is based on well-known and confirmed technology for design, construction and commissioning that has been successfully employed globally. In consideration of all impacts, construction schedule and cost, an above-ground full containment tank is the best design option determined by the applicant for this project.

What is the timeline for road improvements?

There is currently no anticipated date of completion for the Taylor Way reconstruction project. While the City has secured some grant funds, and is actively pursuing other funds, the project is only partially funded. A contribution from PSE would help meet the anticipated need. Item 4.1.3 of the agreement with PSE says that the "…City shall, not later than five years after commencement of commercial operations of the Project, repave the two miles of Taylor Way beginning at SR 509 to the boundary of LNG Project facility as a Heavy Haul Corridor in accordance with specifications and standards established by the City."

The Taylor Way reconstruction is a part of the strategy to improve emergency response times; the agreement provides for interim improvements with the same intent.  In addition to the pavement improvements, the agreement with PSE outlines other actions that will occur by the time the LNG plant begins commercial operations.  In particular, the City will reopen Fire Station 15, and will implement the first phase of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) improvements identified in the Tideflats and Port of Tacoma ITS Strategic Plan.

Does the plant’s designation as a peak shaving facility exempt it from portions of federal regulations?

It is not exempt. An LNG processing facility, whether it is for peak shaving or fueling, has to meet the requirements of the Department of Transportation’s Petroleum and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulations.

How has the anticipated cost of the project changed since the FEIS?

This is a question to be answered by Puget Sound Energy. The City does not take the budget of a private applicant into account with building permits, nor is it a factor in an EIS.

  

Technical/Operational Questions

What Changes have been made to Intended LNG Distribution Methods and Volumes?

The FEIS examined distribution to TOTE via pipeline, a pipeline to new pier on the Hybelos for LNG barges, and a LNG truck loading rack. The only change occurred when, during the Shoreline Permit appeal process, PSE withdrew the proposal to construct a new pier on the Hybelos Waterway for LNG barges. The production of LNG can be scaled up or down depending on market demand so volumes may vary, but generally would be limited to what is required by TOTE, independent trucking to end users, and maintaining storage volumes.

What About Bunkering?

There has been some confusion caused by the term “bunkering” as it has been used in multiple contexts. The term “bunkering” applies in general to ship fueling whether from land during berthing or from water by barge. The term applies in general to any ship fueling at a dock (including  TOTE ships), but is also used to describe barges which would fill and then go to another site to fuel ships (as in bunkering barges).

 

Bunkering from land can include fuel trucks or fixed bunkering facilities such as proposed by PSE. Bunkering from water can be done by barge or in some cases bunkering ships for refueling at sea. 

The proposed dock on the Hybelos to load LNG barges was not intended for bunkering barges to be used by TOTE Marine. If the dock was constructed the purpose would be to load barges intended to deliver LNG to other customers in Puget Sound. However, after the EIS process was completed, PSE stipulated to withdraw the construction of a LNG barge dock on the Hybelos from the shoreline permit. There is no proposal to relocate bunkering of LNG barges to the Blair Waterway. Such a proposal would require additional environmental analysis under SEPA.

Further, there appears to have been some confusion regarding the use of the term “bunkering” in relation to recent conveyances of easements leading to a misunderstanding about PSE’s ability to move elements of the project previously proposed on the Hylebos Waterway to the Blair.

Despite the language of the easement, such a relocation is not allowed under the shoreline permit. Any relocation would involve additional shoreline permitting, environmental assessment, and public review.

The FEIS analyzed two bunkering barges calling in the Hylebos. Relocation to the Blair might benefit from analysis of impacts due to the move, or any other change in impacts from the relocation, but no such relocation is taking place.

Finally, a 2015 article about TOTE’s purchase of a bunkering barge has created confusion. That barge has been deployed to Jacksonville, Florida and will not be used in Tacoma.  Further, the purpose of the barge would have been to take fuel to TOTE’s ships and fuel them from the water, and not to take fuel from TOTE’s site to other locations. Had the barge deployed to Tacoma, it would have filled with LNG in British Columbia and traveled to Tacoma to fuel TOTE ships.

Outline operations at the Blair Pier. Will LNG be barged in addition to TOTE bunkering?

PSE has not advised the City of any changes to the proposed operations at the Blair Terminal as described in the FEIS Section 2.2.2 TOTE Marine Vessel LNG Fueling System.  Barging LNG from the proposed new dock on the Hybelos Waterway was withdrawn from the Shoreline permit, no additional barging has been proposed by PSE.

Where will ship docking and LNG marine bunkering occur on the Blair Pier? Is the new transport pipeline within the footprint of the planned LNG facility?

TOTE ships berth at their dedicated terminal on the Blair Waterway and the LNG bunkering pipeline and loading arm will be located towards the southeast end of the existing TOTE berthing area. The LNG pipeline will extend beyond the proposed footprint of the LNG facility and pass under the TOTE container yard to the fuel arm for bunkering of TOTE ships.  See Figure 2-2 Tacoma LNG Facility Site Plan in the FEIS.

What About Trucking?

The PSE site is located on the east side of Alexander, bordering the Hylebos Waterway. The EIS analyzed the environmental impacts of the facility. This includes an LNG storage tank, the liquefaction facility (refrigerants propane, isopentane, and ethylene), the cryogenic pipeline and loading facility for TOTE, and two truck loading bays on the west side of the facility.

 

Under the project as proposed, up to two tanker trucks per day would arrive empty at the Tacoma LNG Facility and leave carrying LNG to market, generally to a local user. These would service the existing peak-shaving facility in Gig Harbor, as well as other users. PSE has indicated no intent to increase trucking beyond the two trips a day analyzed in the FEIS; should trucking increase, the City would analyze the proposed increase to determine whether it requires additional review.

 

The present proposal also includes an extension of the existing natural gas distribution infrastructure with a new limit station and gate station in Pierce County, and approximately five miles of new pipeline in two segments (Pierce County, Fife, and Tacoma).

Will LNG-fueled trucks be driven along the I-5 corridor? What hazard assessment is necessary for use of these trucks on a busy roadway and should that assessment be included in the EIS?

LNG-Fueled trucks that have nothing to do with the PSE project are already being driven on the I-5 corridor. LNG-fueled trucks, when compared to diesel and gas-fueled trucks, make up a very small portion of the overall truck traffic in Washington. Nevertheless, there has been an increase in the use of LNG as fuel because of LNG’s cleaner burning properties. Currently Clean Energy Fuels Corp. operates 10 LNG fueling stations along the I-5 corridor from Washington to California including a fueling facility in Fife that provides LNG to the trucking industry in Washington State (Clean Energy Press Release, 2016). A hazard assessment is not required to operate an LNG-fueled truck.

 

The FEIS analyzed, and PSE plans to operate, up to two LNG trucks per day. These trucks will be to serve the peak-shaving facility in Gig Harbor, replacing trucks that currently come from British Columbia to service that facility, and which were accounted for in the FEIS.

Can PSE provide statistics proving their determination that truck traffic will not significantly increase to accommodate the excess LNG that will no longer be shipped on the Hylebos?

According to PSE, production of LNG at the proposed facility is scalable and would be increased or decreased to meet market demand. PSE has indicated no intent to increase trucking beyond the two trips a day analyzed in the FEIS.

The FEIS estimated that up to two tanker trucks per day would arrive empty at the Tacoma LNG facility and leave, carrying LNG to its destination. Transport of LNG by truck is regulated by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration that requires a Hazardous Materials Safety Permit (49 CFR Part 385, Subpart E).

What Production Thresholds Were Used in the Air Quality Analysis?

In several places in the FEIS, the daily production capacity of the LNG plant is listed as a range of 250,000 – 500,000 gallons per day. The question has been asked about which production level was used to generate the emissions analysis in the air quality impacts section of the FEIS. PSE has confirmed that the production limit of the plant as currently designed is 250,000 gallons per day; the plant is not capable of producing more LNG daily than that.

 

Any increase in production would require an expansion of the plant, which would require additional permitting and applicable environmental review. A 500,000-gallon production capacity would be predicated on additional customers, which would also have additional infrastructure needs and/or trip generation with additional review and permitting.

 

As indicated in the FEIS, the Proposed Action would emit more than an estimated 20,000 metrics tons of Carbon Dioxide emissions (CO2e) per year and thus would be subject to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reporting requirements, per WAC 173-441. An annual GHG report must be submitted to Ecology each year even if the source does not meet applicability requirements in WAC 173-441-030(1) or (2) in a future year. If the annual reporting ever shows GHG emissions in excess of 25,000 metric tons of CO2e per year, additional environmental review would be required.

 

Also, as indicated in the FEIS, the liquefaction process would operate 8,760 hours per year and the vaporization process would operate 1,000 hours per year. However, the two processes cannot operate at the same time. Based on potential emissions (See Table 3.2-3 in the FEIS) from the Tacoma LNG Facility and TOTE Marine Vessel LNG Fueling System, the proposed action would not be subject to the requirements of Prevention of Significant Deterioration in air quality, nor be subject to Title V permitting under the Clean Air Act.

 

However, as part of the New Source Review requirements Puget Sound Energy would be required to submit a Notice of Construction (NOC) application to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. As part of the NOC permit application process, ambient impact modeling would be conducted for each Toxic Air Pollutant (TAP) that exceeds respective small quantity emission limits as defined in WAC 173-460. This modeling, if required, would determine if the impacts are below acceptable levels. Based on emission calculations in the FEIS the small quantity emission limits would not be exceeded so no criteria TAP modeling is expected to be required as part of the New Source Review.

What are the allowable toxic pollution and carbon dioxide emissions?

The Tacoma LNG Facility and TOTE Marine Vessel LNG Fueling System will submit a Notice of Construction application to the Puget Sound Clean Air Authority. As part of the permit application process, ambient air impact modeling will be conducted for each Toxic Air Pollutant that exceeds small quantity emission limits, as defined in WAC 173-460. Based on information provided by PSE and included in the EIS, it is possible that one TAP may exceed the small quantity emission limits and require modeling to determine if the impacts are below acceptable levels. No criteria pollutant modeling is expected to be required as part of permitting.

Will the City or the applicant provide additional review of proprietary chemicals stored onsite in the 9,700 gallon tank?

The FEIS includes information on refrigerants being contained in three 4,500 gallon tanks, but does not include a reference to a 9,700 gallon tank. However, a commenter was referencing the CB&I siting study that included information on a 9,700 gallon tank. A review of the CB&I study shows the project includes a 1,200 cubic foot tank which is equal to approximately 9,700 gallons. The tank referenced in the CB&I study is for refrigerants that were identified by name in the FEIS. However, the discrepancy is the size of the tank(s), the FEIS indicates the refrigerants are in three tanks totaling 13,500 gallons versus 9,700 gallons in the siting study. It is not uncommon that design and engineering details of a facility will change during the permitting process and this discrepancy in tank(s) volume does not change the analysis in the FEIS. 

The current design of the plant shows a total volume of 4,760 gallons in all three vessels. 

Final design and engineering construction drawings will be extensively reviewed by the Utilities and Transportation Commission, the Tacoma Fire Department, and the City of Tacoma Planning and Development Services prior to issuing building permits.

Are the chemicals monoethanolamine, diethanolamine, methyldiethanolamine, and diglycolamine used in the production of LNG and what are the impacts of their use and disposal on the health and safety of the community?

Monoethanolamine  (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA) , methyl diethanolamine (MDEA), and diglycolamine (DGA) are widely used in the natural gas and petrochemical refining industries for removing carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) from natural gas. Amine is also used to remove CO2 from exhaust and flue gases for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Amines are also used to pretreat natural gas for the removal of CO2 and H2S (acid gas) from the feed gas ahead of the LNG liquefaction this process.

In the last 15 years, MDEA has emerged as the amine of choice for treating feed gas for removal of CO2 in the LNG liquefaction industry.  MDEA has a very low vapor pressure which limits vapor losses in the process; it requires less energy to regenerate and is less corrosive to metal components.

All of the amines are classified by 29 CFR 1910.1200 (OSHA standards for Toxic and Hazardous Substances) as “Hazardous Chemicals.” These products do not represent a danger to the public or the plant operating personnel when handled in the proper and responsible manner. Essentially none of the amine used to treat the natural gas will escape the closed loop treating process. All of the amines will either be recovered and recycled in process separators, dehydration process or disposed of in the process incinerator or flare where it is fully combusted.  

Proper precautions in the design of the facility will effectively eliminate the potential for an accidental release. Liquid Amine exposure is considered moderately irritating to the eyes, and slightly irritating to the skin. Design and handling measures implemented to eliminate the potential for accidental contact with operating staff or accidental release of the material are:

  1. Safety goggles and gloves required during handling.
  2. Dual mechanical seals for all pumps with seal leak detection
  3. Minimize flanges where possible
  4. Secondary drip pans under filters and pumps
  5. Secondary containment around bulk storage
  6. Closed amine drain for recycling and proper disposal.

With these measures in place, the health and safety to the public or plant operating personnel are not affected by the amine process.

As part of the LNG pretreatment process, the carbon dioxide and sulfur compounds removed by the amine process will be flared through a ground flare system as described in Section 2.2.1.7 of the Final EIS.

What is PSE's incentive to follow safety precautions if they are to be "held harmless" in the case of "an act of God, an act of war and an act or omission of a third party"?

PSE has significant incentives to follow safety precautions during construction and operation of the LNG facility including:

  • Regulatory requirements and potential for fines for not complying with federal, state and City of Tacoma health and safety rules and regulations.
  • Very significant financial investment in the facility that would be at risk if safety precautions are not followed.
  • Very significant investment in personnel and training in facility operations, including strict health and safety standards and protocols.

To maintain insurance coverage PSE has to follow health and safety rules and regulations.

Please clarify waste management and disposal plans as they relate to LNG byproducts.

Waste products associated with the production of LNG include hydrogen sulfides (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) and that are scoured from the natural gas by amines will be flared through a ground flare system as described in Section 2.2.1.7 of the Final EIS. In addition heavy hydrocarbons are removed and stored in tanks on-site with secondary containment and either sold for other uses or trucked off-site to appropriate and licensed disposal facilities.

How will preexisting contamination onsite be addressed before construction, during construction, and during operations?

Section 3.1.3.4 of the FEIS details the status of existing contaminated sites on or near the proposed LNG Facility site.

Prior to construction, PSE would obtain a Construction Stormwater General Permit and prepare a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and a Materials Handling Plan to mitigate potential off-site discharges. The Tacoma LNG Facility’s operations will be conducted under the Port of Tacoma’s MS4 permit, or PSE would apply for an Industrial Stormwater General Permit, both of which contain best management practices (BMPs) requirements that establish institutional controls for sediments and upland source areas.

Known subsurface contamination is present immediately northwest of the Tacoma LNG Facility footprint as a result of hazardous substances releases at the Occidental Chemical site, the former bulk petroleum storage facilities on the former PRI site, and in the northwestern portion of Port Parcel 2. As part of an environmental assessment, PSE prepared an upland site assessment sampling and analysis plan and solicited input from the EPA and Ecology. PSE would continue to work with the Port, EPA and Ecology on PSE’s future project plans in areas of known or suspected contamination.

PSE conducted an environmental site assessment in May and June of 2014 (Appendix C of the FEIS) to evaluate whether contamination from these historical facilities has migrated to locations beneath the footprint of the Tacoma LNG Facility site. This investigation also evaluated other areas of historical industrial activity within the proposed footprint of the facility that had not been previously investigated. A preliminary review of the soil and groundwater analytical results from the site assessment suggests that groundwater contamination related to the former bulk petroleum storage facilities is present beneath the northern portion of the Tacoma LNG Facility site. Information from this investigation would be used to coordinate redevelopment plans in accordance with existing orders, restrictive covenants, and other requirements associated with such remedial actions.

Will the excess LNG be sold to other ships via bunker barges and ships?

According to PSE, LNG production will be dependent on market demand so LNG production would be limited to what is needed to meet TOTE’s needs, trucking, and storage for natural gas peaking requirements. There are no proposals at this time to sell LNG to other ships via bunker barges, which would require additional permitting and public review.

Has PSE examined the lifespan and integrity of the cryogenic LNG pipeline that crosses beneath Alexander Avenue?

PSE is required to submit all design parameters and engineering details to Tacoma Planning and Development Services (PDS) for review and approval. PDS will review the piping materials and schematics to ensure that the piping meets the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards for low temperature or cryogenic liquids pipe as described in ASTM A333. In addition, for safe design, PDS will require a flexibility analysis for cryogenic the piping system be conducted to meet the engineering requirements of ASME B31.3, Process Piping Code. Further, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) has review and approval authority over the pipeline.