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Save our Water files charter change to stop methanol plant

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Save Our Water, the group that wants to stop the proposed methanol plant on the Tacoma tideflats, has filed a charter change amendment with the Tacoma City Clerk that is gathering signatures to be placed on the November ballot.

The initiative will amend Tacoma’s City Charter to enable Tacoma voters to express their opposition to the methanol refinery, which is projected to use a lot of water and power. The move is similar to the group’s call for an ordinance change to hold a public vote of high-water use permits, but would be more difficult to override.

“It really strengthens our argument and we are fully expecting to go to court before we even get to vote on it,” organizer Sherry Bockwinkel said.

The proposed charter change, rather than a new ordinance for example, does a very important thing. It cannot be overturned by five votes by the city council after just two years, as an ordinance can be. Another change made, the cost of the election will be paid by the applicant, not Tacoma taxpayers.

The petition has already been approved by the city attorney, so the group now awaits the final go ahead to gather signatures. Save Our Water intends to collect the necessary 5,559 signatures from registered voters in Tacoma by mid-June to place this ballot proposal before the voters on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Petition sheets will be made available at a public event March 12, being co-hosted with 15 Now Tacoma. This event will feature a presentation on community rights and citizen initiatives. The event will be held at First United Methodist Church, located at 621 Tacoma Ave. S. Attendees at this event will be the first to sign the Charter Amendment 5 initiative.

The signature drive and campaign will come even after Northwest Innovation Works issued a “pause” to the environmental review process for the project largely because of the rising tide of opposition to the project that includes the City of Federal Way, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and thousands of residents who had flooded public hearings and forums on the project.

“They want people to lose interest in it,” Bockwinkel said of the company’s decision to call for a “pause” to allow time to develop a public outreach plan about the $3.4 billion project.

The proposal calls for a natural gas to methanol conversion plant on 110 acres of the former Kaiser Aluminum site. The plant would produce 20,000 tons of methanol a day, making it the largest facility in the world. The methanol would then be shipped to China to be used to make plastics. The conversion process would consume some 550 megawatts of power and 10.4 million gallons of water.