New Opportunities for Conversations About Methanol, Methanol, Methanol!

As public concern continues to build over the proposal by Northwest Innovation Works to build a methanol processing plant in the Port of Tacoma, there are a few upcoming public events to be aware of.

The City of Tacoma, acting as lead agency on the Environmental Impact Statement process for the project, is still in the information gathering phase, gathering input on the scope of what it should consider in evaluating the environmental impacts of the plant. 

Public Scoping Meeting

This early scoping phase has already included a number of blockbuster public meetings, with hundreds of Tacomans in attendance to express their concerns related to the project. The next of these public meetings had been scheduled for this Tuesday, February 16, at Meeker Middle School in northeast Tacoma. The City has now announced that meeting has been rescheduled to Wednesday, February 24, so that it can be relocated to the Convention Center.

The meeting had been planned for Meeker in order to make it easier for residents of northeast Tacoma to attend, but the move was made to "allow for more community participation." In other words, they're expecting another big turnout. This meeting is a chance for members of the public to comment on what they hope to see included in the scope of the review that will analyze likely environmental impacts, and what alternatives or mitigations might be necessary if the plant were to go forward. There will also be opportunities for the public to ask questions about the project, and learn more about the public process around it.

Northwest Innovation Works Methanol Plant Public Scoping Meeting
Wednesday, February 24
Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center ballroom
1500 Broadway
Doors will open at 5 p.m. for speaker sign-up and the meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. 

Although this is the last of the scheduled public meetings, the City will be taking written public comment on the scope of the environmental review process through 5 p.m. March 4. Learn more on the City’s website. They are aiming to have a Draft EIS ready in September for public review and the next round of comment opportunities.


Port Study Session

The City meeting has been postponed, but the Port of Tacoma Commission is scheduled to discuss the plant during the study session portion of their meeting this week. The study session item appears as item 4A on the agenda. The Port is the landlord for the project, having signed the lease with NWIW for the property back in 2014. A public comment session for the commission meeting follows on the agenda. This passage from the Port Commisssion's rules for comment seems relevant.

On “non-action” agenda items listed under General Business or for Study Session presentations, public comments may be offered at the discretion of the Commission President and at the conclusion of the meeting during the general public comment period. 

So it sounds like there may or may not be a comment opportunity. We've asked. If you have thoughts, you could email your elected Port Commissioners. If you can't make it to the meeting, the Port does stream their commission meetings at

Port of Tacoma Commission Meeting
Thursday, February 18. Commission Meeting begins at noon.
The Fabulich Center, Room 104 
3600 Port of Tacoma Road 

Informed Discussion Series

The Center for Urban Waters is hosting a series of events aimed at establishing a common understanding of the science and engineering underlying the methanol plant. These talks are meant to provide scientific explanations of various aspects of the plant, to help the public better understand what is being proposed - and to ask more informed questions as the public process moves forward.

Although not a part of the official environmental review process, and not a chance for public comment, this series should provide solid, fact-based scientific answers to issues and concerns related to the project. Each session will feature a slate of invited experts making focused presentations on relevant topics, and answering questions submitted ahead of time.

Citizens for a Healthy Bay is taking those questions ahead of time for each of the sessions, to submit a question, use one of the following methods:

The first session, titled "Framing the issues: Local to global perspectives," happened last week (recorded for viewing online). We highly recommend taking the time to watch this. It's an hour and 45 minutes long, but it's full of useful information on the environmental review and permitting processes the plant will go through, and the basic science behind methanol, methanol plants, and other relevant information. Put it on while you're doing laundry or cooking dinner.

The first of four events, so there are still three left - on various relevant topics. The first two come before that March 4 scoping comment deadine, but that won't be the end of the process, with the actual environmental review still to come, along with another round of public comment.

Urban Waters methanol plant discussion series: These events are free and open to the public, but do require advance registration. You can learn more and register at events are scheduled to take place in the Carwein Auditorium in the Keystone Building on the UW Tacoma campus. 

Potential impacts on regional water and power supplies
Thursday, February 25, 6-7:30pm
Moderator: Joel Baker, UW Tacoma
Speakers: Robert Mack, Tacoma Public Utilities; Eric de Place, Sightline Institute; Dan Kirchner, NW Gas Association

Potential implications for the local environment
Thursday, March 3, 6-7:30pm
Moderator: TBA
Speakers: Joe Casola, UW Climate Impacts Group; Ed Kolodziej, UW Tacoma; Sheri Tonn, Pacific Lutheran Univ.

Developing a common understanding to refine the discussion
Thursday, March 10, 6-7:30pm
Moderator: Melissa Malott, Citizens for a Healthy Bay
Speakers: Robin Evans-Agnew, UW Tacoma; Jean Jensen, UW Tacoma


Read more previously from Exit133 on the NWIW methanol plant proposal here.

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Claudia Riedener
The first Urban Waters ‘discussion’ was an infomercial. Why not come see Wilma Subra on the 25th? She knows about methanol refineries. Mrs. Subra is a well-known and distinguished American environmental scientist. She has dedicated her life to protecting the environment and protecting the health and safety of citizens. She has experience in providing technical assistance to citizens, across the U.S. and some foreign countries, concerned with their environment by combining technical research and evaluation. She will present information to our community members so that strategies may be developed to address our local struggle, the proposed Methanol Refinery.

Mrs. Subra recently completed a seven year term as Vice-Chair of the Environmental Protection Agency National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT), a five year term on the National Advisory Committee of the U.S. Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation and a six year term on the EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) where she served as a member of the Cumulative Risk and Impacts Working Group of the NEJAC Council, and chaired the NEJAC Gulf Coast Hurricanes Work Group.
Mrs. Subra holds degrees in Microbiology/Chemistry from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. She received the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” Award from the MacArthur Foundation for helping ordinary citizens understand, cope with and combat environmental issues in their communities and was one of three finalists in the Environmental Category of the 2004 Volvo for Life Award. She was selected in 2011 as one of the ‘Lifetime Remarkable Woman’ and most recently won the 2011 Global Exchange, Human Rights Award for her ongoing work with the BP Oil Spill and the communities affected by it.

February 16, 2016 at 12:09 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I wouldn’t quite say it was an “infomercial,” but it was not even close to a balanced panel.  The speakers, except (somewhat arguably) Dr. Baker, have a professional interest in seeing the plant permitted.

Did you catch the part about the extent of the tank farm?  Something like 20 times the size of the oil tank farm by the Center for Urban Waters.  And did you notice the “omygosh, so many crazy regulations from the 70s, but you have to to what you have to do” attitude from one of the port guys? 

Finally, I’m pretty sure I detect some condescension and eye rolling from Exit 133 about the concerns about the plant.  Not cool for a blog that generally assiduously avoids political and policy stances.

February 17, 2016 at 8:22 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I can’t help but chuckle when the people at Urban Waters are cited as the environmental authority on anything.  There they sit, inside a building built on top of infilled saltwater tidal land, at the exorbitant cost to build the structure, and citing what’s the best path for environmental concerns?  Even I know, and I’m just an internet troll here, that it will take over 30 years longer than an already built building to make up for building a new building - in environmental impact.  THEN they spent a ludicrous amount of money on it to eek out small percentages of efficiencies. 

A REAL environmentally conscious organization would have never built on wetlands, adapted an existing structure, and used the excess money as a pool for making other buildings energy efficient… but that is the past and I am on a tangent.

But, does Urban Waters, as an organization, sound like an organization you should listen to for environmental impact advice?  What a catastrophe this all is…

February 17, 2016 at 4:28 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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One thing that must be done is to vote out the quisling (and I mean that exact definition) politicians that supported this monstrous disaster for Tacoma and betrayed the future of the city as well as its innocent citizens.
I hate to be cynical but I doubt that this disaster will be stopped.Just like the Fukushima disaster 100’s millions of gallons of methanol will someday be right in the puget sound.And lets not forget what will happen to our utilities either.Probably the wisest thing to do is just to sell your property ,refuse to pay rents with exhorbitant utiility costs and just leave this area.

It’s like an enemy warhead from an enemy government already planned to be planted and built here no I.C.B.M. launch vehicle needed.

February 17, 2016 at 8:48 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Shipping makes sense for the port.  Oil, gas, methanol, LNG and human warehousing (the for-profit ICE detention facility) don’t.  Why compound past mistakes by building the LNG and methanol facilities?

February 18, 2016 at 8:43 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I think each session should begin by asking the presenters where they live relative to the proposed site, and whether they plan to continue living there during construction and upon completion of the proposed facility. That might add some perspective on how strongly they feel about their support of the project.

February 18, 2016 at 12:48 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Taylor Wilson

What type of chance for discussion About Methanol? Actually I provide Assignment Writing Service For Students and I was searching for new topic and this seems good but I need some information.

June 26, 2018 at 3:28 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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July 3, 2018 at 6:46 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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