The six protesters who were arrested last week after they reportedly chained themselves to construction 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 have been released.
The protesters were booked into Pierce County Jail after they were arrested last Wednesday and originally faced felony charges of malicious mischief in the first degree, criminal trespass in the first degree and obstruction in the first degree. Those charges were downgraded to misdemeanors during a hearing Thursday that ended with them bailing out of jail to cheers from supporters.
Sarah Morken, Jake Grote, Marilyn Kimmerling, Irene Morrison, Jeff Johnston and Cynthia Linet were identified by protest organizers as the “Super Six,” who were arrested for what the group called acts of non-violent civil disobedience. Redline Tacoma, Direct Action Tacoma and Rising Tide Seattle are promoting an effort to pay for their attorney fees.
The six 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.
A few dozen protestors were on hand to wave signs and stream live video of the arrests on Facebook. The six protesters were removed from the site about 10 a.m. and the protesters on the sidewalk outside the fence line disbursed. No one outside the fence line was arrested.
Protests at the site have been increasing in recent weeks as PSE moves 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 have 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.
They are not alone.
The City Council and Port of Tacoma Commission are finalizing a path for the tideflats to undergo a multi-year review plan that would examine zoning and land-use rules for the industrial and commercial hub of the region that is home to shipping terminals, heavy industrial businesses and fuel refineries. One glitch in the review effort is who should also sit at the discussion table alongside the city and port. The city’s proposal also lists the Puyallup Tribe, since much of the tideflats lies within its reservation. The port wants the tribe only listed as a stakeholder alongside other business and agencies with ties to the waterfront but also wants the Pierce County Council as a partner because activities on the waterway impact the region. Shipping activities on the waterfront provide some 29,000 direct and indirect family-wage jobs and $223 million in state and local taxes.
A comprehensive look of the tideflats will likely take upwards of four years once the effort starts. City and port officials will now negotiate the difference in their resolutions.