Citing public concerns, company that proposed methanol plant in Tacoma puts project on 'pause'

TACOMA -- The company that proposed building the world's largest methanol plant in Tacoma announced Friday it has asked the city to "pause" the environmental review of the project  in response to public concerns.

"We have been surprised by the tone and substance of the vocal opposition that has emerged in Tacoma," Murray Godley III, president of Northwest Innovation Works, wrote in a letter on the company's website. "To force a facility on a community that does not welcome it would not be consistent with our goals. Therefore, we have decided to pause the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) environmental review process in Tacoma.

"We will use the next several months to engage the Tacoma community in further dialogue. This will provide us an opportunity to share more details about our proposed project, discuss the environmental and safety procedures we are planning, and hear directly from the public about their concerns, as well as receive input on further innovations," Murray wrote.

He concluded, "We remain committed to Tacoma, and will restart the process after assessing the results of our engagement with the community."

Hundreds of people in Tacoma are fired up about a plan to build what would be the largest methanol plant in the world.

On Wednesday night, it was a full house at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center as the city took public comment about the issue.

“I’m completely against this methanol plant and I think it’s a horrible idea,” said Mary Stewart, a mother of four who lives in Tacoma.

“I think it’s a horrible, horrible decision,” said Laure Nichols, a Tacoma resident.

The plant would be built on 125 acres along the Blair Waterway.

“Northwest Innovation Works has selected technology to use that will provide 75% further reduction in emissions,” said Many Putney, with Northwest Innovation Works.

The plant would take piped-in natural gas into Tacoma and turn it into methanol.

That methanol would be sent to China to be turned into olefins -- a type of plastic that is used to make numerous products we use every day, such as cell phones, tires and jackets.

“So this process is a cleaner way to produce methanol and it really provides a way to achieve global goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions,” added Putney.

The methanol plant is expected to use 14 million gallons of water each day and use as much power to provide electricity to nearly 400,000 homes.

“These things always come with some level of disaster even with an environmental study,” said Zach Powers, a Tacoma resident.

Northwest Innovation Works says the plant would create about 1,000 jobs at its peak during construction and about 260 permanent jobs once it’s operational.

A lot of people in Tacoma are concerned about the impact this plant will have on this city and the environment.

“I can’t live someplace where it’s dangerous for my kids,” said Stewart.

“I think once people realize the impact it’s going to have, I’m really questioning people wanting to stay in Tacoma long term,” added Nichols.