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Frequently Asked Questions

The following are common questions that have been asked recently relating to environmental review of the project.  For answers and more information, please view the questions posted below. The FAQs that were created before July 24, 2018, are still available on this web page.


Frequently Asked Questions (updated as of July 24, 2018)


Were the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 permit, the Washington Department of Ecology Section 401 permit, and the City of Tacoma substantial shoreline development permit all conditioned on having an approved PSCAA Air Quality Notice of Construction (NOC) permit?

The Department of Ecology (ECY) Section 401 permit and the City of Tacoma shoreline permit were not "conditioned" on having an approved Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) NOC permit. The condition in the shoreline permit is that the development of the LNG facility comply with all other applicable laws, regulations, and policies, including ECY permitting and PSCAA permitting. 

Neither the shoreline permit nor the development permits are conditioned on the receipt of those permits prior to development at the site; they will be required prior to construction of any element requiring the permit, and, at the latest, prior to operation of the site. Any construction completed in advance of receiving the Ecology and PSCAA permits is at the developer’s own risk. 

Both ECY and PSCAA have declined to issue stop work orders based on the initial lack of an NOC. PSCAA is working with PSE to come into compliance, including the air emissions Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement currently underway by PSE. The City defers to these other agencies and their approaches to their permitting processes. 

What are the specifics in terms of the tax and other monetary benefits to Tacoma? Please identify the taxes revenues that the City of Tacoma anticipates receiving per year. Also identify bulk payments that PSE will be paying the City of Tacoma for infrastructure upgrades.

Assuming the plant begins operating in 2021, ongoing local tax revenue is projected to be approximately $1.4 million per year. This revenue projection is based on information provided by PSE, and reviewed by Tacoma Tax and License and Tacoma Public Utilities. The revenue estimates include Power Gross Earnings Tax, Business and Occupation Tax, and the City’s portion of Property Tax.

Two agreements between the City and PSE provide for:

  1. PSE to pay the City $4,250,000 as payment in lieu of sales tax on construction, and
  2. PSE to pay $5,500,000 to cover City-performed mitigation.

Who is responsible for studying the PSE LNG projects financial viability and how can ratepayers be assured that they will not be stuck paying for a failed financial venture?

This is a question for the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC.) The WUTC regulates energy companies, including Puget Sound Energy. The City cannot speak for the WUTC.

What are the legal criteria for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)?

Under state law and administrative code (WAC197-11-600 and -620), the City may only require an SEIS based upon: 

  • actual data showing substantial changes to a proposal such that the proposal is likely to have significant additional adverse environmental impacts; and/or
  • new factual information indicating a proposal's probable newly discovered significant adverse environmental impacts.

The actual data showing substantial changes, and/or the new factual information about newly discovered impacts must be completely new, and the newly discovered or identified environmental impacts must not be within the range of alternatives and impacts already analyzed in the existing Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Criticism of the existing FEIS, or speculation about what PSE may do in the future does not constitute completely new factual information, or completely new probable significant adverse impacts. 


The FEIS, which was not appealed, addressed the safety of plant operations. Washington State law is clear that an EIS is not a catalog of every conceivable effect. "An environmental impact statement is adequate under the rule of reason if it presents a reasonably thorough discussion of the significant aspects of the probable environmental consequences of the proposed development. An environmental impact statement is not a compendium of every conceivable effect or alternative to a proposed project but is, simply, an aid to the decision-making process. The environmental impact statement need include only information sufficiently beneficial to the decision-making process to justify the cost of its inclusion. Impacts or alternatives having an insufficient causal relationship, likelihood, or reliability to influence decision makers are 'remote' or 'speculative' and may be excluded from the impact statement." Preserve our Islands et al., Appellants, v. The Shorelines Hearings Board, et al, 133 Wn. App. 503 (2006).

How does the Tacoma Fire Department’s ALOHA modeling results differ from the information provided by PSE and/or other modeling methodology?

The modeling technology PSE used is known as FLACS – it is a design-engineering software for use in siting LNG and other facilities, and is approved by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for that purpose. Both ALOHA and PEAC-WMD software are intended to provide first responders with quick rough order of magnitude estimates as part of the information to be used by incident commanders in responding to hazardous materials events. Neither ALOHA nor PEAC-WMD is designed to be utilized as a facility siting tool, and neither is approved for that purpose by the PHMSA.

In the event of a prolonged emergency inside or outside the facility, Tacoma's hazardous materials team would use PEAC software to quickly obtain an initial prediction of the greatest extent of a potential vapor cloud including an added margin for safety. PEAC software does not take into account topography, such as the substantial elevation difference between the tideflats and Northeast Tacoma. Initial plume predictions do not necessarily coincide with the determined evacuation zone. The output from ALOHA or PEAC would be validated against what Fire Department personnel actually observe and measure on scene and downwind from the incident. Emergency response software simply provides rapid and conservative (that is, with a significant margin of error) plume predictions.

Why wasn’t a Health Impact Assessment completed by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, despite their policy of requiring one whenever an EIS for a large project is required?

This is a question for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD). The City cannot speak for the TPCHD. 

Did the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) approve the siting and safety of the PSE LNG facility? Do they have safety oversight for this facility?

This is a question for the WUTC. The City cannot speak for the WUTC. Project managers and other staff from the WUTC participated in the EIS process as well as in the pre-application process for the development permitting. Approval, siting, and safety oversight questions should be referred to the WUTC. 

Why is the Tacoma Fire Department LNG Emergency Response Plan to be developed after the plant is operational and what would be the emergency response if an accident were to occur on day 1?

The emergency response procedures are required to be completed prior to the plant becoming operational. The plant operator/owner is responsible for developing these procedures, which include how and when to coordinate with local first responders. Tacoma Fire Department will closely coordinate with the operator/owner in the development of these procedures.

Must the design of the LNG plant meet safety codes?

Yes, the design and construction of the LNG plant must meet the adopted codes and safety standards or the operator/owner will not receive a certificate of occupancy to operate the plant.  Detailed safety modeling is required and has been submitted for all the required scenarios as dictated by the existing adopted codes and standards. Tacoma Planning and Development Services and the Tacoma Fire Department have and will continue to closely review and scrutinize the construction of the facility of the facility to ensure the adopted codes and standards are met.

Did the permitting process for the PSE LNG Plant meet applicable requirements?

Yes, the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review and permitting process for the PSE LNG plant followed the established process and fully complied with all applicable laws and regulations. The City's issuance of the SSDP was upheld by both the State Shoreline Hearings Board, and unanimously by the Division I Washington State Court of Appeals.

The original EIS stipulated that only two trucks will leave the facility daily and the only marine vessels that will dock on the Blair Waterway are the two Tote ships; however, PSE may intend to supply customers by other means of transportation in the future. Does this represent a change in scope?

To date, PSE has not taken any steps to either increase truck trips, or to add or intensify any other transport method. If actual changes to transportation associated with the PSE plant are proposed to the City by PSE, or otherwise occur, the City will review the impacts.

May a person or entity outside City government demand an SEIS and receive an appealable decision from the City of Tacoma?

No. A decision to require a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) is solely an administrative decision of the permitting agency, in conformance with the applicable law. No State law, or reported decision of Washington courts creates a right to demand an SEIS and receive an appealable decision on that demand from the permitting agency. If the permitting agency in its judgment requires an SEIS, that decision, and the SEIS when completed, are both appealable. 

Will the City be liable if there is a catastrophic event at the LNG Plant?

No. Under Washington State law the act of governmental permitting does not shift liability to the permitting agency. The permit holder and operator of the project remains liable for damage.