Politics & Government

Possible ballot issue on water permits takes aim at methanol plant

February 09, 2016 11:37 PM

Opponents of a proposed methanol plant want Tacoma voters to decide this fall whether to shift permitting approval for projects that need large amounts of water to the ballot box.

Papers filed with the Tacoma city clerk this week make it clear the initiative proposed by a group called “Save Our Water” is targeting a $3.4 billion proposal to bring the world’s largest methanol plant to the Tacoma Tideflats.

The city attorney is examining the submission to see if its format meets city code.

The issue, should it make it to the ballot, asks voters if they want to mandate that all requests for water permits requiring 1 million gallons of water per day or more to get voter approval.

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If the city attorney accepts the filing, Tacoma city officials have 10 days to write a ballot title and allow the group to start collecting signatures. The group would have 180 days to collect 3,160 signatures to get it onto the fall ballot. If approved, the law could take effect when the election is certified.

The methanol refinery, proposed by Northwest Innovation Works, is undergoing environmental review by the city. So far, nearly 1,000 people have commented on what potential impacts the city should include in its review.

City officials have said that permits for the project cannot be issued until after the environmental review is complete. That analysis, compiled in a document called an Environmental Impact Statement, is expected to be finished in December or January.

Last month a small group tried to place an advisory vote on the methanol plant proposal on the fall ballot, but the city attorney quashed it, saying the city charter doesn’t expressly allow citizen petitions to call for advisory votes.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports