Tacoma City Council Vote on Tideflats Interim Regulations Delivers Mixed Results

November 19, 2019
By Erin Dilworth, Policy & Technical Program Manager, Citizens for a Healthy Bay

On Tuesday, November 12, Tacoma City Council renewed the Tideflats Interim Regulations. While Citizens for a Healthy Bay (CHB) is glad to see the ban on the development of new high-risk fossil fuel facilities continue into the future, we are frustrated and disappointed that City Council refused to ban expansions of existing high-risk fossil fuel facilities, even as those facilities are, step by step, expanding their operations.

City Council understands the threat new high-risk fossil fuel facilities – like terminals, refineries, and bulk storage centers – pose to the Tideflats, our community, and the climate. When Council first passed the Interim Regulations in 2017, they acknowledged that such an existing facility doubling or tripling in size would present the exact same threat, but failed to include this protection in our regulations.

CHB Executive Director Melissa Malott speaking in front of Tacoma City Council

In the past year, CHB has been showing City Council evidence that Tacoma’s oil companies are expanding their operations. To understand these expansions, Councilmember Chris Beale (District 5) introduced, and the Council approved, an order for the City’s Planning Department to study the amount and type of both fossil fuels and bio-fuels that are produced, refined, stored in, and distributed through the City. Additionally, City staff will gather information on changes of ownership, mergers and acquisitions, investor presentations and reports, and any other public information that may indicate a high-risk fossil fuel facility’s interest or intent to expand in the future.

While we are disappointed Council again chose not to make the regulations more protective by including a ban on the expansion of existing high-risk fossil fuel facilities, we believe this data-gathering effort is a step in the right direction. We are confident the City will find that there have indeed been significant increases in the amount of fossil fuels moving through our City since the Interim Regulations were first passed two years ago. We believe this work will lay the groundwork for City Council to finally strengthen Interim Regulations when they are again up for renewal in May 2020.

Thank you to everyone who called, wrote letters, emailed, and testified in-person to ask our City Council to protect our environment and our health. We will keep you informed about how you can contribute to the next renewal phase in 2020!

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