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Gov. Inslee Says Questions About Wash. Methanol Plants' Water Usage Are Legitimate

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Gov. Jay Inslee

There are legitimate questions about proposed multi-billion dollar methanol plants at the ports of Tacoma and Kalama, according to Gov. Jay Inslee. He said the plants offer benefits but their water usage and possible pollution need to be carefully considered. 

These are projects Inslee touted in January 2015 at an economic forecast conference in Seattle. At the time, he said he had met with the company, Northwest Innovation Works, which is backed by the Chinese government, to secure their commitment to build the methanol plants in Tacoma and Kalama.

"These projects will generate about 250 jobs and over $3 billion - with a b - in direct investment in the state of Washington," Inslee said.

The plants would take natural gas by pipeline and convert it to liquid methanol to ship to China, where it will be used in making plastics. The plants haven’t been issued permits yet; they’re still in the environmental review process.

Concerns About Water Usage

People in Tacoma have raised a number of concerns including how much water the plant there will use. Northwest Innovation Works has said it will need about 10 million gallons a day.

Inslee told reporters this week that questions about water usage and other concerns are legitimate.

"We’ll have to make sure there’s not deleterious impacts on salmon runs and the needs of other water users. We’re going to need to assure people that Puget Sound [is] not polluted because of any runoff from this plant," Inslee said. "Those are questions we’re going to have to get answered."

But Inslee said using natural gas to produce methanol is cleaner than using coal, which is the feedstock he says is mostly used in China today.

The city of Tacoma will hold two public hearings on the proposed methanol plant next month. 

Thanks to Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network for help with this story.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.