Tacoma City Council Votes to Renew Tideflats Interim Regulations, Mayor Signals Need for Permanency

May 29, 2020
By Erin Dilworth, Policy & Technical Program Manager, Citizens for a Healthy Bay

Last Tuesday, May 19, Tacoma City Council again renewed the Tideflats Interim Regulations for the fourth time since the Regulations were first adopted in 2017. The Interim Regulations were meant to be temporary until permanent protections could be adopted under the Tideflats Subarea Plan. It’s become clear that these regulations are not so temporary, as the Tideflats Subarea planning process has taken much longer than initially expected, forcing City Council to re-up the Interim Regulations every six months for the past two and a half years.

At the May 14, 2020 Tideflats Subarea Plan Steering Committee meeting, Mayor Woodards announced she wanted to introduce a motion that would reevaluate what it would mean to have permanent regulations in the Tideflats, rather than relying on the temporary protections provided by the Interim Regulations. The Mayor cited the slow-going of the Tideflats Subarea planning process, the exhausting amount of resources the City must spend every six months to renew the Regulations, and the new world we find ourselves in as we re-prioritize our work amid the Covid-19 pandemic as the major reasons for introducing the motion.

After a divisive discussion among the Tideflats Subarea Plan Steering Committee, the Mayor chose to withdraw her motion in the hopes that the Committee could reach an agreement on what to do with the Interim Regulations, together.

At the May 19th City Council meeting, Deputy Mayor Keith Blocker and Councilmembers Chris Beale and Lillian Hunter voiced their agreement with Mayor Woodards’ concerns, and acknowledged that we need to find a resolution sooner rather than later. From Councilmember Beal (District 5):

“We are a community that declared a climate emergency…That comes with certain things we need to do as a community to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions…. Today is 915 days since we passed the first [ordinance]…. It’s been a long time and I think interim regulations need to be strengthened. We need to be looking at existing uses like the Planning Commission recommended to the Council at the time in 2017. We need to continue to look at that through the lens of the climate emergency and be very genuine about what that means for our community moving forward.”

Despite withdrawing her motion to reevaluate what it would mean to have permanent regulations prior to the May 19th City Council meeting, Mayor Woodards did not rule out bringing the motion back during the next renewal process if the Subarea Plan Steering Committee doesn’t reach an agreement soon. Saying in her closing remarks, “If we don’t find resolution between now and the next time this is read, or even before then, I can bring back that particular amendment. I can bring it on as a resolution at any time.”

Between now and the next Tideflats Subarea Plan Steering Committee meeting on July 9, the participating governments will be working together to try and reach an understanding about what pieces of the Interim Regulations work, or don’t work, for each government. The goal of this work is to collaboratively adopt permanent regulations for high-risk fossil fuel facilities now, rather than years from now when the final Tideflats Subarea Plan is finished.

If the governments working on the Tideflats Subarea Plan do not reach an agreement by July, we hope the Mayor will stick to her word and introduce a resolution that would reevaluate the Interim Regulations, which is likely our best bet to adopt protections that prohibit existing high-risk facilities from doubling or tripling the amount of fossil fuels they bring through Tacoma.

For more detailed information on how fossil fuels move through Tacoma, check out our recent article: Big Oil is Taking Advantage of Tacoma.

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