Climate change isn’t just a fact. It’s the reality we are facing today.
Here in Tacoma and Commencement Bay, we’re already feeling the impacts of a changing climate; it’s negatively impacting salmon populations and it’s responsible for the ocean acidification that’s damaging the shellfish industry. As the planet continues to warm, we’ll see a rise in sea level that will forcefully displace large numbers of the population, and an increase in air pollution, which is linked to a higher rate of human respiratory problems and illnesses.
We’re already seeing hotter summers, droughts, and, like people across the globe, increases in severe rain and flooding. These changes impact our community’s security and infrastructure, increasing our costs to maintain roads and clean water systems.
As Tacomans, we cannot ignore the serious and urgent threat of climate change. Our communities have already begun to suffer the consequences from a changing climate. We have a moral obligation to ourselves and our environment to reduce the pollution we spew into our air.
Taking Control of Our Future
To stop climate change, we need to drastically reduce the amount of pollution we create. And as a community, we can make a huge difference at the local level. Here in Tacoma, Citizens for a Healthy Bay is part of a coalition that is driving the growing movement to place a temporary freeze on future fossil fuel facilities and expansions in the Tacoma Tideflats until our community can have a larger discussion of the role of fossil fuels in our collective future. This is a short-term solution specifically focused on the urgent need to locally prohibit new or expanded fossil fuel projects.
Why are we pushing for a short-term solution in the face of an immensely complex issue like climate change that requires thorough, long-term planning? Because the City and Port of Tacoma are planning to have a community conversation (called a subarea plan) about the future of the Tacoma Tideflats. And that’s a good thing. We fully support this discussion process. However, subarea plans often take around two to three years to finish, and with the Tideflats being such an involved and important topic, we expect this plan to take up to four or even five years to complete. We simply cannot risk leaving our communities exposed to the threat of new fossil fuel projects for that long. That’s why we are pushing for a short-term fossil fuel moratorium; to protect our community while we discuss the future of the Tacoma Tideflats.
Preventing new fossil fuel industries from setting up in Tacoma isn’t just about reducing the amount of carbon pollution we emit into our air by burning oil, coal and gas. It’s also about sustainably growing our local economy. The processing, transportation, and storage of fossil fuels have negative impacts and risks for our communities and environment. Oil and coal trains slow down our communities and certain industries by causing extended traffic delays and significantly impeding the flow of other commodities, causing loss of business and jobs. By prohibiting fossil fuels in the Tideflats, we also create an attractive space for clean industry to grow its roots and boost the local economy by providing clean local jobs.
At this point in the conversation, we want to acknowledge something important: the existing oil companies in the Tacoma Tideflats have solid track records of environmental compliance. With rare exceptions, these companies consistently meet their permit requirements. We’ll even give a high five to Targa Sound Terminal for thinking ahead and supplying renewable fuels to port industries.
We’ve had extremely productive partnerships with those companies in our mission to clean up and restore Commencement Bay, with amiable relationships with the folks at those companies. Nevertheless, to combat the urgent and real threat of climate change, we need to shift from burning fossil fuels for energy and begin to invest in clean, renewable energy sources.