A Washington State Court of Appeals commissioner has merged two appeals of a lower court decision on the disclosure of fire and emergency response information involving the proposed 8 million gallon liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility Puget Sound Energy wants to build on the tideflats.
Port watchdog Arthur West and RedLine Tacoma activist John Carlton had independently sought the emergency response information that PSE filed as part of its Environmental Impact Statement last year. The City of Tacoma deemed it disclosable information but alerted PSE about the plans to release the information so utility officials could file legal actions to block the information from becoming public. The energy company did just that, but a Pierce County judge ruled in both filings that the disaster modeling and response procedures should be released. PSE has appealed those decisions on the grounds that disclosing the information would heighten risks of a terrorist attack.
On Monday, Appeals Court Commissioner Eric B. Schmidt merged PSE’s appeals into a single case since they involve identical information and legal arguments. But the ruling earlier this week is only a partial victory for critics of the project because Schmidt denied West’s and Carlton’s call for a halt of any construction-related activity or permits for the project until the safety information is released because the court could not find any legal authority to block the issuing of permits, even while the project is under legal clouds.
“It would have been good to put this on hold until it’s all ironed out,” Carlton said. “If (LNG) is so safe, why not share the information? The people have the right to know what is going on.”
That knowledge could come sooner rather than later, thanks to the merger of the West and Carlton cases. Schmidt ordered an expedited process, with PSE’s opening briefs due by Oct. 7. The appeal is set for consideration in December, a month earlier than it had been originally slated for a hearing.