Friday, April 22, 2016

Methanol Plant Developer Terminates Tacoma Lease

By Mark Edward Nero

The consortium Northwest Innovation Works said April 19 that it is terminating its lease for a site on the tide flats with the Port of Tacoma. The site would have been used as the home of a $3.4 billion methanol production facility.

“We do not see a way forward with the Port of Tacoma,” NWIW President Vee Godley said in a statement. NWIW said its decision to terminate the lease centered on three business considerations particular to the Port of Tacoma site: the land, a lack of adequate time and zoning issues.

The proposed site was at the location of a former smelter “While taxpayers have paid tens of millions of dollars to remediate the former smelter site, it remains polluted to this day,” the company said in a statement explaining its decision. “Only careful planning, additional research, and the right regulatory approach would allow the development of a heavy industrial use on such a site. Developing that approach has taken longer than anticipated, and the process currently in place to resolve pending questions promises still to be a long one.”

Regarding the second issue, the company said there’s inadequate time to conduct necessary due diligence and environmental analysis. Under the terms of the current lease, NWIW must complete a comprehensive due diligence and environmental review process by April 30.

“Given what we now know about the site and the process going forward, we estimate that we would need at least three more years of development activities to perform the necessary due diligence, public process, and environmental analysis,” Godley said.

Thirdly, although the site at the port is zoned for this type of proposed business, the company says various proposals to change the regulatory requirements for this site have “injected additional risk” into the process.

NWIW is developing the same type of production facility in Kalama, Wash. as was proposed in Tacoma, and says it remains committed to its development.

The chemical methanol is used in various ways, including in antifreeze, solvent and fuel, as well as biodiesel.