A group named Save Tacoma Water gathered signatures for two ballot initiatives that would have required a public vote before industrial water development is permitted on the city’s Tideflats. Last summer, however, the initiatives were blocked from being placed on the ballot because a judge ruled they exceeded the powers of a local initiative. The group is now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to have the issues considered.
Port of Tacoma used public funds to fight two initiatives aimed at limiting industrial development on the Tideflats
The state of Washington appealed the decision, arguing that the groups didn’t disclose the costs of their legal battles and that the port had improperly used public funds to fight the initiatives. Both sides argued that disclosure would violate their First Amendment rights, but the state court of appeals disagreed. The case will now go back to the Pierce County Superior Court.
When a statewide initiative was passed in 2008 that would have prohibited the building of correctional facilities in the vicinity of an active volcanic hazard, the Port of Tacoma and Northeast Tacoma fought it in court. Despite their disagreements on this issue, Phelps wrote an open letter to the city council to confirm the city’s support for the new detention center. But at the same time, his letter came at a time when Tacoma’s political winds were shifting. At the time of the resolution, Bill Baarsma, who was mayor when it was passed, had been a strong opponent of the new facility. The city did not inform him that Phelps had written the letter.
After the city fought the federal lawsuit, the Port of Tacoma questioned its legal authority to block the expansion of the Northwest Detention Center. The state’s definition of an essential public facility prohibits local governments from prohibiting expansion or siting of any such facility. The city, however, had only limited authority to ensure that the state and federal environmental regulations were met, and the state court ruled that Tacoma did not have the authority to prevent the expansion of the detention center on the site.
People’s Right to Water Protection is a democratic safeguard
Save Tacoma Water, an organization that gathers over 17,000 signatures to challenge the corporate state’s devious schemes to privatize our water, drafted a law in 2009 requiring a public vote on proposed water projects. It laid the legal foundations for sustainable water use, but Tacoma powerbrokers sued to prevent the law from being passed.
The People’s Right to Water Protection protects our health, welfare and quality of life. No matter who issues permits for water extraction, the courts will not recognize them as valid. The same holds true for corporations that violate the rights of citizens. If the state courts uphold the rights of Tacoma residents, the project will be blocked. It is important to note that the People’s Right to Water Protection is the only way to save Tacoma water.
Port of Tacoma’s arguments don’t hold up in court
The Port of Tacoma is appealing a decision that dismisses its workers’ wage claims against the company. The Port has repeatedly claimed that the employees’ time off was uncompensated and that they should have received their wages in a more timely manner. But the state Court of Appeals ruled that West’s arguments don’t hold up in court and rejected them. The case focuses on the economic loss rule, which limits the amount of compensation that employees can receive for traveling time.
The arguments that the Port of Tacoma used to justify its plan to build the LNG plant don’t hold up in court. They ignore a major point made by the Port of Tacoma’s opponents: that coal is dirty and polluting. This claim ignores the fact that the facility is surrounded by more than 1600 people, and that the fire department has no plans to evacuate the building in the event of an outbreak.
Save Tacoma Water appeals to U.S. Supreme Court
The group behind the Save Tacoma Water effort organized against a proposed fossil fuel methanol plant in the city, which is estimated to use 14 million gallons of water per day. The group decided to use the initiative process to qualify a ballot measure that would require citizen approval before any industrial water project could go ahead. They spent less than three months collecting nearly 17,000 signatures to qualify the initiative. In addition, they had only $5,000 to work with, so their appeal made sense.
After reviewing the case, Nevin agreed with the legal arguments put forth by the groups. He noted that the group’s lawyers had argued that it was appropriate to wait until the voters had spoken on the issue. Nevin also pointed to a recent decision made by the state Supreme Court in February. In Spokane Entrepreneurial Center v. Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution, the court found that the local initiative conflicted with state law. The court ruled that a pre-election challenge was appropriate in this case.