We owe a deep appreciation to the union workers for the Fire Department (Firefighters Local 27) and PSE (Electrical Workers Local 77) who responded to this dangerous situation, stopped the leaking gas, and put out the fire.
On Wednesday (Feb. 24) the lives of thousands of residents and workers in Seattle’s Central District, in the heart of District 3, were disrupted because of a dangerous underground gas leak and fire, involving pipes controlled by the for-profit corporation, Puget Sound Energy (PSE).
The gas fire shows yet again the damage for-profit energy companies do to our communities and the climate. Puget Sound Energy, owned by a group of foreign investors including the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, seems to care more about financial returns for their shareholders than they do for the safety and security of our community. PSE profits off fracked natural gas, operating gas lines throughout Seattle and the region, burning natural gas in power generators across Washington, and recently building a massive Liquid Natural Gas plant in Tacoma. In 2016, an explosion in PSE’s gas lines leveled a City block in Greenwood, injuring nine firefighters, destroying three small businesses, and damaging dozens of buildings. The state Utility and Transportation found that PSE failed to retire an old section of gas piping, leading to the explosion, and fined PSE $1.5 million for this neglect.
Given this history, it’s not surprising that CD residents have been reaching out to my office with deep concerns about PSE’s reliability. Their anxiety about PSE is entirely justified. I believe it’s important for the city’s political establishment and the Utilities and Transportation Commission to comprehensively investigate whether and to what degree PSE has neglected maintenance and safety upgrades throughout its entire pipe infrastructure. Seattle’s working people and community members have a right to be protected from dangerous incidents like the Greenwood explosion and now the Central District fire.
I also want to express our Council office’s deep appreciation to the union workers for the Fire Department (Firefighters Local 27) and PSE (Electrical Workers Local 77) who responded to this dangerous situation, stopped the leaking gas, and put out the fire. Once again, frontline workers put themselves in harm’s way to protect all of us.
From Texas to Seattle’s Central District, for-profit energy companies like PSE do double damage to our communities. To maximize profits they cut corners causing catastrophic explosions and fires, and even when everything goes right, they rely on fossil fuels like natural gas responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing a climate catastrophe.
Seattle’s electricity is run by a public utility, for the benefit of all residents, not for global profit-seeking investors. It’s time to take the big energy companies like PSE into democratic public ownership, so that working people can have a say over the impacts they have on our communities and the climate, and can reorient these companies away from fracked gas and toward clean, renewable energies.