Over the last several years, Washington residents have fought tooth and nail against a blitz of coal and oil export proposals in the state. A state that once never seriously exported these dirty and dangerous products was in the bullseye for a major change and massive export. Due to the hundreds of thousands of public comments, public testimonies, letters to the editor, and other grassroots engagement, all of these proposals are on the verge of being prevented. Recognizing the fight never ends, a coalition of partners formed in Tacoma to take the fight to the non-traditional local industry by establishing a network who’s goal would be to prevent any new fossil fuel facilities in the Tacoma Tideflats.
Tacoma, which still boasts nicknames like “Grit City,” was never seriously looked upon as becoming an environmental leader in western Washington. Over the last several years it has been a sleeping giant so to speak of environmental activism among it’s residents. The community prides itself on it’s rough edges and industry but understands the balance needed for job creation and the long-term health of the city and Commencement Bay. Just in the last few years Tacoma has seen a Surfrider led plastic bag ordinance pass as well as massive public outcry that prevented what was proposed to be the world’s largest methanol plant.
What has transpired recently in regards to fossil fuels in the Tacoma community is almost unrecognizable from a city steeped in a past of grit and heavy industry. Those who have been through the battles like the well-reconginzed fight against the Asarco smelter have brought their knowledge, Tacoma grit, and passion to team up with a growing community of sustainability focused people who value all the work that has been accomplished in the past to make Tacoma one of the best communities to live and access it’s recreational qualities.
As the battle over fossil fuels in WA continued to win and stop proposals, Tacoma organizations and residents came together to form a coalition to protect this community. Instead of playing defense, the group went on the offensive. The Protect Tacoma Tideflats Coalition that represented conservation groups like Citizens for a Healthy Bay, Surfrider, Audubon and others, was joined by union groups, business entities, and interested community members. The threat for new fossil fuel development in Tacoma was apparent due to it’s deepwater port and history. The coalition determined that the best course of action was to get a Tacoma City Council moratorium on fossil fuel developments through interim regulations during a sub-area use plan. This plan generally takes 3-5 years to develop and ideally will include the interim regulations essentially etching them in stone. A wonky, policy driven campaign but one many got behind due to the passion of the community.
The South Sound chapter gave public testimony, submitted written comments, and had a recreation-focused letter to the editor published supporting the interim regulations. As the marine recreation side of the coalition, the chapter was adept at bringing paddlers, beach walkers, scuba divers, and other local recreators out to support proactive fossil fuel policy. All of this paid off on November 21st, 2017 when the City Council of Tacoma passed interim regulations preventing any new fossil fuel facilities in the Tacoma Tideflats and thus began the process of the sub-area use plan to ensure even stronger future regulations. A high arching success for a community not too long ago simply viewed as “Grit City” and a message to all who come proposing new and dangerous projects to the area that Tacoma will not let anything slide. #keepTacomafeard.