Proposed methanol plant draws debate at Tacoma hearing
via The News Tribune BY DERRICK NUNNALLY
A contentious hearing Thursday night to guide official scrutiny of a proposed Tideflats methanol plant drew hundreds more people than a 400-seat meeting room in the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center could hold, leaving city officials pondering Friday how to handle future hearings.
“We are going to fix this next time,” said Ian Munce, the city’s principal planner and manager of the methanol project. “We are going to the ballroom next time.”
The meeting room used for Thursday’s event, instead of the 1,200-capacity ballroom, resulted in a meeting that started an hour ahead of schedule, after all seats were filled and the room’s perimeter was lined by the project’s advocates and detractors jammed together into close proximity.
The hearing was the first public meeting since the Port of Tacoma agreed in 2014 on a 30-year lease of waterfront property to build the 125-acre methanol production facility, which would be the world’s largest.The project’s proposer, Northwest Innovation Works, draws financial support from China’s government and BP (the British petroleum company), and also plans to build two similar plants in Kalama and the Port of St. Helens in Clatskanie, Oregon.
Several cited troubling problematic consequences of Tacoma’s industrial past, including the much-mocked “Tacoma aroma” and the lead and arsenic that fell from the Asarco copper smelter smokestack into Tacoma’s soils for much of the 20th century.
“Yes, we need jobs,” said Bruce Hoeft, a retired teacher who lives in Tacoma, “but we need ones that will not threaten the health of the people who have those jobs and the people who live nearby. … The smelter also provided those jobs, and it poisoned the land and the water.”