News Politics

“I found out about the [methanol] plant on Facebook,” says resigning member of Sustainable Tacoma Commission

Ellen Moore at the January 18 public hearing in Tacoma
Ellen Moore at the January 18 public hearing in Tacoma
On Thursday, January 18, 2016, hundreds of concerned citizens packed into the Tacoma Convention Center for a public hearing. The issue under discussion: the proposed construction of a 125-acre methanol plant on the Tacoma Tideflats and the plant’s environmental effects.

One of the public commenters was Ellen Moore, a member of the city’s advisory Sustainable Tacoma Commission. She resigned from her position as a member of STC using this speech, which was received with a standing ovation. –TN

I’m Ellen Moore, citizen of Tacoma and member of the Sustainable Tacoma Commission.

Tonight I join thousands of Tacomans who are deeply opposed to having a dirty, volatile, petrochemical plant in the heart of our town.

I could list any number of serious environmental concerns, and I do so for the record:

  1. The plant would guzzle MORE than half of Tacoma’s clean water supply a DAY as we head into expected drought years and are asked to conserve water;
  2. Heavy metals and chemicals like nickel carbonyl will be used to refine the fracked gas into methanol, and I’d like to know how these metals and chemicals will be stored once spent;
  3. The plant would allow China to make MORE cheap plastics to send BACK in our oceans and waterways, choking and killing our marine life even more. And China is the #1 contributor to the plastic garbage in our oceans. #1. We’d be enabling China to pollute our oceans even more than it already does with cheap methanol-produced plastics;
  4. There are significant risks of methane leaks – and, I DO know the difference between methane and methanol: methanol is the highly flammable, volatile, toxic material we might be making here, and the natural gas used to make methanol consists primarily of methane (the most potent greenhouse gas). So, methane and methanol ARE directly linked, and currently Los Angeles is dealing with a methane leak of catastrophic proportions from its own natural gas facility.

So, other concerned citizens will make their voice known tonight. My unique contribution comes from my perspective as a commissioner with Sustainable Tacoma Commission. Tonight I speak only from my personal perspective of STC and do not represent the commission.

STC’s role is incredibly limited. While it SHOULD act as a watchdog for sustainability matters, it has little power, and the City rarely, if ever, seeks us out to advise it on environmental matters. THAT important job is left to Planning and Development which is a complete conflict of interest.

In fact, methanol was never brought to STC’s attention: as a commissioner I and others found out about the plant on FACEBOOK, which is troubling given that we were created by the City of Tacoma to advise it on matters of sustainability.

Because I consider a polluting petrochemical plant in the heart of our beautiful city one of our biggest environmental concerns to date, and because I feel as though I can do nothing as a commissioner, I will be resigning from the STC commission tonight.

Mr. Huffman and Mr. Munce: you made the unusual decision tonight to change standard public comment protocol by forcing us to sign up as FOR or AGAINST the plant, and then calling on each side equally. I’d like to know how many Tacomans are against it, not some artificial version of “balance.” You also framed this debate by having Connie Bacon (Port Commissioner) lead our public comment. This appears to reveal that the city DOES consider this a done deal. Please convince us otherwise.

Thank you for your time.

Postscript: Moore recommends the RedLine Tacoma Coalition and following #NoWaterForMethanol as possible resources for more information.