A candidate for a seat on the Port of Tacoma Commission told The News Tribune in recent interviews that for a number of reasons he was against the controversial methanol plant proposed to be built on the Tideflats.
But in a campaign speech two months ago, commercial real estate broker Jim Jensen lamented that the plant was scuttled, according to a video posted on his Facebook page in early April. The News Tribune learned about the speech Monday after posting Jensen’s comments about opposing the plant. A reporter then viewed the video, which was taken down shortly thereafter.
In the speech, Jensen, of Fox Island, said the plant was supported by Democratic politicians, including Gov. Jay Inslee, and would have been a boon to the environment while also helping the Pierce County economy.
“The extreme environmentalists spun it that this is actually a bad thing to get China off coal, which I thought was a big mistake, but the second thing (is) we pretty much ran them out of town without any business advocacy,” Jensen said in the video. “And my thought is if I can go down there, I will make sure I will not only fight for that business to be able to get their permits and be able to get through some of the environmental regulations and red tape, but I want to be their advocate and hopefully attract some more companies like that.”
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Reached Monday, Jensen said that it was his first speech as a candidate for public office and that he was nervous. He said he’s learned a lot about the methanol issue in the intervening two months.
“I’ve been educated a lot on the subject, and to be quite honest with you, from that video to now I’ve learned a lot about it, but also I feel like my thought was I was never for the proposed methanol plant but was for trying to find solutions to the issues that no one was talking about,” he said.
Jensen, who described himself in a previous interview as a moderate Republican, said he had several problems with the project.
He didn’t like that it would have used more than 10 million gallons of potable water per day, was worried about its potential contributions to pollution and had concerns about its safety.
In an interview Monday, Jensen said that as a port commissioner he would have worked with the community and with Northwest Innovation Works, the company that wanted to build the plant, to find solutions to those concerns.
The methanol plant proposed for the Tideflats would have been the world’s largest and would have been used to make methanol for export to China.
The $3.6 billion project planned for the former Kaiser smelter site was highly controversial among Tacoma residents and environmentalists, and plans were withdrawn in spring of last year, days ahead of a key port vote on the lease of the land.
In the campaign video, Jensen said he was an environmentalist but also a pragmatist, and that natural gas was a step in the right direction. On Monday, he said he’s pro-business and pro-environment, and that his job as a commercial real estate broker has taught him skills in negotiating and finding solutions.
On his Facebook campaign page about a week after that speech was posted, Jensen replied to a commenter who had questions about his positions on the methanol plant and Puget Sound Energy’s planned liquefied natural gas plant.
“I was not for the proposed methanol plant,” Jensen wrote on April 15. “I don’t think natural gas is the long-term answer for climate change, but I think we can both agree it is a great start to lower emissions from energy sources like coal … When I become Port commissioner, I am going to market to my contacts with Tesla to build a solar-panel plant in place of the methanol plant. I think this would be a great economic gain for the community, and also a great environmental victory.”
On Monday, he said changes to the methanol plant proposal could have led to a win-win.
“I was 100 percent against it as is,” Jensen said. “It needed advocacy to have proper solutions to those issues. My worst fear is that we get labeled as the ‘anti-everything’ city and that we couldn’t get companies like Tesla here because, ‘Oh no, they’re going to run us through the ringer.’ So reputation has an impact.”