SEATTLE (AP) — The Pacific Northwest could become a major hub for methanol production if three proposed refineries are built along the Columbia River and Puget Sound.

A China-backed consortium, Northwest Innovation Works, has proposed two plants in Washington and a third in Oregon to convert natural gas to methanol, which would be shipped to China to make plastics. But those plans are running into opposition. On Friday, the company temporarily put its Tacoma, Washington, project on hold, saying it has been surprised by vocal opposition.

Supporters say the projects would create jobs and bring billions to the region. Opponents have raised concerns about environmental and health impacts. Over 1,000 people attended a hearing this month on the proposed Tacoma refinery that would produce 20,000 metric tons a day.