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Tacoma's Methanol Plant Proposal Draws A Critical Crowd

An aerial view of the Port of Tacoma.
An aerial view of the Port of Tacoma.

Hundreds of people crowded into a Tacoma convention center Wednesday night to voice concerns about a methanol refinery proposed for the city’s Tideflats.

If it’s built, the refinery would be the largest of its kind in the world. It would take natural gas from British Columbia and convert it to methanol. Then it would be shipped to China to make plastics.

The $3.4 billion dollar plant is one of three proposed for Washington and Oregon by Northwest Innovation Works, a company backed by the Chinese government.

The refinery will need a lot of electricity and water to operate – prompting concerns from citizens who just came through one of the worst droughts in recent memory this past summer.

Proponents of the plant say natural gas is a cleaner power supply than coal, which is used in China to make methanol now.

Only one person spoke in support of the plant at Wednesday’s hearing. Another called for the resignation of one of the Port of Tacoma’s commissioners who signed the initial lease. That call prompted standing applause.

The public will have another chance to comment on the proposal on Feb. 16. A final environmental review isn’t expected until the end of the year.

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