TACOMA, Wash. -- Despite starting nearly an hour before the scheduled start time, an overflow crowd packed rooms inside Tacoma's convention center to comment on a proposed methanol plant in the port.
The project, slated to be the largest natural gas-to-methanol facility in the nation, would cost $3.4 billion and according to Northwest Innovation Works, the Chinese-backed joint venture behind the plant, would bring 1,000 construction jobs and more than 200 full-time positions to the region.
"This facility will be state-of-the-art," said Charla Skaggs, spokesperson for Northwest Innovation Works. "We will be a leader in clean technology."
Plans call for the plant to be built on the site of the former Kaiser Aluminum site in the Port of Tacoma. Methanol produced would be shipped to China where it would be used largely for plastics.
Skaggs said it is a cleaner option than coal or other fuels, also used in the process.
"I feel like we can have really good jobs that are actually part of the solution for climate change," continued Skaggs.
Inside the convention center, port officials, the company and opponents setup tables with booklets, paperwork and a series of opinions on the large project.
"I'm for jobs. But I think 250 jobs is a very small amount when you're looking at 250,000 residents in Tacoma," said opponent Valarie Peaphon.
Inside the room set aside for comment, a steady stream of critics voiced their concern, which included demand on water and energy the plant would require, safety concerns and pollution discharged into Commencement Bay.
"It's not baby formula," said opponent Ken Campbell. "It's not some vitally needed commodity. It's plastic. We've got more plastic than we know what to do with already."
Support was led by several local unions, encouraged by the jobs that would be created with the plant.
"This land is already industrial land," said Lee Nugent with Seattle Building and Construction Trades, a union organization. "This is not virgin and untouched. This was a smelter plant before."
A final environmental impact statement is expected in December. More public comment will be gathered before a final determination on the plant is made.