Update: Proposed Methanol Plant Plans Cancelled

The world’s largest methanol plant will not be located in the Port of Tacoma, as Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW) decided to cancel the Tacoma plans Tuesday, April 18th, due to “ambiguity in the governmental process.”

This comes after NWIW put a pause on talks after public uproar. President of NWIW Vee Godley says that public protest had “no effect on the decision,” according to a News Tribune article written by Kate Martin, Derrick Nunnally, and C.R. Roberts.

NWIW issued a press release the day of the cancellation announcement (April 19th) and gave two reasons why they chose not to continue their project in Tacoma. The first reason, according to the release is the land itself: “While taxpayers have paid tens of millions of dollars to remediate the former smelter site, it remains polluted to this day… Developing that approach has taken longer than anticipated, and the process currently in place to resolve pending questions promises still to be a long one.”

NWIW’s second reason for cancelling in Tacoma was due to “inadequate time to conduct necessary due diligence and environmental analysis.” Under the current lease terms, NWIW would have had to complete a “diligent” environmental review by April 30th, which according to the release, “would require several more years of analysis.”

NWIW said that they would need “at least” three years to complete an environmental impact study.

The China-based, $3.4 billion facility, aimed to be built on the former site of the Kaiser Aluminum smelter, is located approximately three to four miles from campus. The decision to cancel the project comes just weeks after the City of Tacoma released info on taxes NWIW would be paying towards the city, if constructed. According to an NWIW report, they would have paid over $19 million a year to the port and $17.7 million in sales tax to the city after purchasing natural gas and other goods and services.

NWIW still has proposed plans to build a smaller methanol plant in the Port of Kalama, which is about two hours south of Tacoma, near the Oregon border. Godley said in a News Tribune interview that, “The company will make its final payment to the Port of Tacoma on April 29th of $1.464 million.” According to a Port of Tacoma press release, “[his] lease allowed NWIW to either terminate the lease during the remainder of the feasibility period, which runs through April 30th, or enter the construction period of the lease.”

Communications professor Ellen Moore said, “The methanol plant intended for the tide flats of Tacoma represents a dying industry—that of fossil fuels. While the vast majority of scientists now warn that we need to keep existing fossil fuels in the ground if we want to protect ourselves and our environment from catastrophic climate change.”

Moore is an activist and one of the core leaders of the “Metha-No” Facebook group, where she frequently updates group members with email threads and information regarding the plant. Moore was involved in the two public methanol meetings—where a combined audience of over 1,700 attended—from the very first one in January. She says, “Here in Tacoma, I hope that we become an emblem of two things: first, the need for a new green economy that protects us and the environment through investment in renewable energy; and second, the power of a dedicated group of citizens.”

The special Port of Tacoma commission meeting in Lakewood that was scheduled for Monday will be canceled and the city will begin their search for another tenant for the vacant Kaiser smelter lot. “Perhaps needless to say, I’m proud of Tacoma citizens,” says Moore.