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May 6, 2021

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Port of Kalama, NWIW appeal Ecology’s methanol permit denial

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LONGVIEW — The Port of Kalama and Northwest Innovation Works Tuesday appealed the state Department of Ecology’s denial of a key permit for the proposed $2.3 billion Kalama methanol plant, stating the agency unlawfully applied the shoreline criteria to the project.

About three weeks ago, Ecology denied the project’s shoreline conditional use permit, citing a “significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions and inconsistencies with the Shoreline Management Act,” as principal reasons.

The project could increase global emissions at a lower rate than other methanol sources but it would cause an overall increase, according to Ecology’s greenhouse gas analysis of the project released in December.

Northwest Innovation Works maintains the project would lead to a net decrease of global greenhouse emissions.

According to the appeal, Ecology’s greenhouse gas review and subsequent decision “violate state law by illogically treating the project’s global greenhouse gas impacts as harmful to the shoreline environment” even though NWIW has committed to mitigate all in-state emissions. The decision also is not supported by the independent life cycle analyses, funded by NWIW, that determine more greenhouse gasses would be emitted globally if the project isn’t built, the appeal states.

The appeal calls for Ecology’s decision to be set aside and for the project to proceed under its existing shoreline permits.

Northwest Innovation Works wants to build the plant on land leased from the Port of Kalama. The plant would convert natural gas into methanol for use in plastics manufacturing in China and would employ about 200 people, according to the company. NWIW volunteered to mitigate all in-state emissions, with a preference for in-state and regional projects.

Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, will oppose the methanol company’s appeal and defend Ecology’s decision before the Washington Shorelines Hearings Board, according to a Columbia Riverkeeper press release.

“Ecology made the right decision, and we will continue to protect the health and safety of our communities, our water, and our climate,” said Stephanie Hillman, Northwest Campaign Representative for Sierra Club and Co-Director of the Power Past Fracked Gas Coalition. “In the middle of a climate emergency, when we should be focused on moving toward a future free of fossil fuels, building the world’s largest fracked gas-to-methanol refinery makes no sense.”

A trial before the Shorelines Hearings Board will likely occur in summer 2021. Any ruling by the Board can be appealed to Washington state courts, according to the press release.

Other permits would be required for the project to move forward, including two federal permits vacated in November.

A federal court in November vacated the federal Clean Water Act permits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved in April 2019, sending the project back to the Corps for review.

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