More than a dozen area business leaders urged the Port of Tacoma commission Thursday to extend the feasibility period for a proposed methanol refinery to allow for more study of issues surrounding its operations.
Until now, comments about the $3.4 billion methanol project have been dominated by those who oppose it. Thursday’s remarks were roughly split between those against the project and those who said they want a fair process ruled by facts and science. A longer feasibility period would allow the city to complete its environmental review of the proposal, many said.
Billy Hobson, executive vice president of Brown and Brown Insurance, said “In America, we would never convict a criminal of a crime without a very thorough investigation and representation of the facts.”
The vote to change the lease terms could happen at a special Port of Tacoma commission meeting April 25. The feasibility period for Northwest Innovation Works’ proposal ends on April 30, according to a lease dated May 1, 2014 and approved by the commissioners.
The timing is significant, port officials explained. Northwest Innovation Works can only back out of the lease during the feasibility period. Once the lease enters the so-called “construction phase,” rents escalate from $8,000 per month to around $270,000 per month.
The company announced a “pause” in environmental review last month, saying it has been “surprised by the tone and substance” of the plant’s opponents.
Methanol plant opponents echoed similar concerns to those in past meetings. Some worried about the environmental impact of a project that would use 10.4 million gallons of water per day. Others worried about airborne pollution. A few also complained about the port commission’s lack of outreach before it approved the lease with Northwest Innovation Works.
Port commissioner Don Meyer said he expects the port to release any proposed lease changes at least two weeks before the commission is set to vote on it.