Group against proposed methanol plant in Tacoma hopes to put issue before voters

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TACOMA, Wash. --- A proposed methanol plant in Tacoma has neighbors so angry they’re hoping they can take the issue before voters to stop the refinery plan.

“I would say residents are uniformly opposed to the methanol refinery, for several reasons,” said Michael Lafreniere, of the group Save Tacoma Water.

The group is trying to get an initiative on the November ballot that would require voter approval of a company’s plan to use more than a million gallons of water a day.

“The methanol refinery announced that its project needs 14-22 million gallons of water per day,” said Lafreniere.

The group will soon start collecting signatures to try to get the initiative on the ballot. They’re confident they’ll be able to get the 3,160 signatures needed to bring it to voters.

“We’re going forward with it and it’s just a simple matter of collecting the signatures and creating our own law that is going to protect our water for the people. People before profits,” said Sherry Bockwinkel, also with Save Tacoma Water.

The group is concerned about the environmental impact of what would be the largest methanol plant in the world sitting right in their city.

According to Northwest Innovation Works, natural gas would be piped in to Tacoma, converted to methanol and then sold and shipped to China to produce plastic.

The entire city of Tacoma needs about 15 million gallons of water a day, according to Save Tacoma Water – and they’re concerned about other companies sucking up a million gallons each day.

“Proponents who argue that this creates roughly 200 permanent jobs is overlooking the fact that the amount of water currently in the Port of Tacoma is supporting well over 2,000 jobs,” added Lafreniere.

The Port of Tacoma said that it’s still in the process of doing the environmental review study, to see if the methanol plant will even work for the area. A spokesperson said nothing has been finalized and they believe the initiative is premature.

Another public comment hearing, as part of the environmental impact study, is scheduled for February 24 at 5 p.m. at the Greater Tacoma and Convention Trade Center.

Meanwhile, the group behind the initiative has until June 15 to collect the necessary, valid voter signatures to get it on the ballot.