Published on March 14th, 2016 | by M. Morford


It’s not over until it’s over: #NoMethanol253

Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW) president Murray V. Godley in a recent public statement observed,

“The Pacific Northwest’s dedication to environmental protection is one of the reasons NWIW chose this region for its facilities. Given these objectives, we have been surprised by the tone and substance of the vocal opposition that has emerged in Tacoma. To force a facility on a community that does not welcome it would not be consistent with our goals.”

In the two public ‘scoping sessions’ – each with well over a thousand people – two things struck me.

The first was how many of those who were fairly young and had moved to Tacoma well after 2000.

Most of these people had no direct, personal memory or experience of the pulp mills and smelters that defined Tacoma for virtually all of its history as a city.

For these 21st Century citizens of Tacoma, the possibility of a toxic facility literally welcomed into the heart of our city was insulting and incomprehensible – as it should be to all of us.

From the @Tacomatalks feed

From the @Tacomatalks feed

The “tone and substance of the vocal opposition” may be a surprise to NWIW and our Port and City officials, but it isn’t news to those of us who live here.

The big – and pleasant – surprise is that there are so many fellow Tacomans who feel passionately about protecting a place so many of us worked hard to rescue from a dirty, poisonous, and dangerous past.

And for so many reasons.

That was the second thing that struck me.

Whether it be the decline in residential real estate values, the nearly inconceivable consumption of water and energy, the air or water pollution, the dependence on fracked natural gas or the production of plastics or the vulnerability to earthquakes or lahars or the ‘colonization’ by the Chinese government, there were dozens, if not hundreds of reasons to oppose the methonal facility.

And the justifications for the facility seemed even more vacuous and inane the more we heard them.

The land is already zoned for industrial use.

Yes it is. But so is the land where the Northwest Detention Center stands.

Washington State Senator Jeannie Darneille made the case that the EPA has never cleaned up the same site twice.

Perhaps that should be the model for how this piece of land is to be used in the future: a showcase of environmental stewardship and restoration building on the University of Washington Tacoma’s work with their Center for Urban Waters.

Instead of a fenced off site packed with hazards and toxic residue, perhaps it could be a place of welcoming, a place that showcases the best, not the worst of human impact.

Instead of continuing, if not multiplying, the legacy of poisonous and extractive fossil fuels, how about some sort of alternative energy site – possibly one that might harness the power of the tides?

Or how about a tiny house village for homeless families?  

Or how about a school or training facility for young people pursuing a career related to the Port of Tacoma?

Or how about site for education and practical training related to further restoration of industrially poisoned landscapes?

The public opposition to the methanol plant dares not rest until that plot of land is filled and is dedicated to another, far better, use.

NWIW will not give up easily. And we won’t either.

NWIW may change names, or tactics. Or someone else will take their place. With even more glistening and irresistible promises.

In fact we know the likely next chapter in this story; NWIW will come back, possibly under another ‘green’ label, with a slick, convincing, homey, Pacific Northwest flavored marketing scheme. They will dismiss or threaten those few benighted, recalcitrant, Luddite, granola tree-huggers that dare oppose progress and prosperity for all.

And who knows, maybe NWIW will seek out those who have publicly opposed the methanol plant and offer them a consultant position.

I’ll be waiting for that offer I can’t refuse. But the real offer I can’t refuse is that my home, my life, my future, is not for sale.

It’s not over until it’s over.

There have been several forums on the methanol plant with a focus on ‘facts’. These would be ‘facts’ like the chemical processes used, dollars invested, tonnage shipped, and jobs created.

But we don’t eat facts. Or breathe them. Or live with them.

It takes far more than environmental impact statements, shoreline use permits, building and safety codes and a cost/benefit analysis to build a community.

Community takes time and commitment. Community takes years to build and is easily lost.

We are not willing to trade our community for any ‘facts’.

It is not the project that needs to be defended by statistics, jobs and financial projections, it is those ‘facts’ that need to be defended and justified by the land and waters, Tacoma’s identity, future and character.

From @seabeaster's feed

From @seabeaster’s feed

Those of us who oppose this project are not ‘naïve’, ‘uninformed’ or ‘hysterical’ – we are defending something difficult to define; hard-won and barely retrievable if lost.

I was born and raised here, my daughter was born and raised here, and now, my grandchildren have been born here.

My wife tells me that if this plant is built, we have to leave Tacoma.

That is what is at stake here; neighborhoods, memories and legacies cannot be packaged or purchased.

On more levels than we can articulate, we feel threatened.

NWIW says “To force a facility on a community that does not welcome it would not be consistent with our goals.”

Our response could not be clearer.

And the struggle is far from over.

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About the Author

Writer, teacher, community story-teller, poet, advocate of the oddities of earthly existence. Scavenger of the unlikely.

4 Responses to It’s not over until it’s over: #NoMethanol253

  1. The people have spoken, and have won round one!

  2. Mikel says:

    That takes us up to the next level. Great postnig.

  3. That’s a slick answer to a challenging question

  4. http://www./ says:

    So chuffed to be working with you Debbi, and a bit overawed by all the colouring genius – yes, that's you I am talking about…… I'm sure we will all bring our own style to the team, can't wait to see your first projectEn x

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