The doors swung open at 4:45 pm on Feb. 10th at the Tacoma Convention Center, where the second city meeting regarding the proposed Tacoma methanol plant was about to take place. The meeting, located in the Center Room, held 1,200 people, much larger than the first hearing room (where there was standing room only). At 6:30 pm the floor was open to speakers, where one current and one former Husky were given the platform to relay their research findings.
Katelynn Haas is a senior Communications major and Human Rights minor who says she found out about the 125 acre gas-to-methanol plant in a front-page News Tribune article while at work. She began doing research on fracking and how methanol refineries affect the areas surrounding them.
Chelsea Vitone, a newly graduated Writing Studies and Communications major and Environmental Studies minor, has been active in the pushback from the very beginning. “I got involved because I had just finished a nonfiction nature writing class, during which we participated in the Tri-Campus Carbon Challenge,” says Vitone. “We had open conversations in class about environmental threats and activism, and since I was already an environmentalist, it felt natural to get involved.”
Vitone also co-authored a Letter to the Editor with Dr. Ellen Moore titled, “Methanol: Ghosts of past, present haunt our future” which was published by The News Tribune on Dec. 9th, 2015.
Haas says a Facebook video of the statement Moore gave in the first methanol meeting on Jan. 22nd “moved” her into action. “I was moved by her speech to be more than just a bystander as something as extreme as a methanol plant was being constructed right outside our homes. Tacoma has a special place in my heart. I love this city, I love its people, and I love its community.”
“I spent a couple hours on my own doing initial research on the plant,” says Haas. “I met with a couple people from school to go over issues of the plant we all found to be the most pertinent to this event. After that, I wrote a rough copy of my testimony and met with two professors who helped me with finessing the flow of the writing.”
Those who signed up to speak at the event were allotted a strict three minutes of time to speak without interruption. The board laid ground rules for behavior at the meeting. Haas says when she got up to the stand she was shaking, but took a deep breath and started. “The crowd was a sea of hundreds of red shirts [the red shirts are people who do not support the plant in Tacoma] that sat in chairs behind the podiums where speakers stood,” says Haas.
“The general feel of this meeting was a lot different than the last,” says Vitone. “At the last meeting, the tiny room was packed wall to wall, people standing wherever there was space and hoping the fire marshal wouldn’t make them leave.”
Federal Way’s City Council held an emergency meeting on Feb. 12th, two days after the second Tacoma meeting to voice their opposition of the plant, where about 180 people attended, according to Raechel Dawson of the Federal Way Mirror.
Haas shared some advice for her fellow UWT students: “The best thing you can do for Tacoma right now is to be active. We can’t afford to sit back and think that this issue will get handled by itself. Every voice matters and everybody at that public hearing counts.”
“I think our generation has a bad rap, always considered apathetic or passive,” says Vitone, “I don’t care if students do their research and are pro-methanol, or if they oppose the plant; I want to see people getting active and learning about how they can affect change and be part of society.”
Sign-ups for the final public meeting regarding the proposed methanol plant will be held at 5 pm Feb. 24th at the Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, located at 1500 Broadway.