science environment

Ruling Invalidates Key Permits For Proposed Wash. Methanol Plant

By Molly Solomon (OPB)
Sept. 19, 2017 1:05 a.m.

A Washington state board has invalidated two key permits for a $1.8 billion methanol project proposed in Kalama, Washington.

In denying the permits, Washington’s Shorelines Hearings Board sided with Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, three environmental groups that appealed the permits in June.


The board ruled that the Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County failed to fully evaluate greenhouse gas emissions from what would be the world’s largest gas to methanol plant if it's built.

In its summary judgment, the board wrote it is "troubled by the project's emission of greenhouse gases without further evaluation of potential mitigation measures. Even without including all off-site sources, the project will emit more than one million tons of greenhouse gas annually, increasing Washington's total emissions by more than 1 percent."

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The ruling went on to say that the final environmental impact statement is remanded to Cowlitz County and the port for further analysis, and the two permits previously issued were now invalid.


“We’re happy that the board overturned the permit for the refinery,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of the Columbia Riverkeeper.

He said the ruling validates the group’s claim that state and county regulators fell short in evaluating the project’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“When natural gas is drilled out of the ground through fracking, a lot of it escapes into the atmosphere,” said VandenHeuvel. “We should look at how much the drilling of the gas, the transportation of it, the shipping, the burning – how all of that impacts our climate. Or else we’re getting a really incomplete picture of it.”

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“You can't build a massive fossil fuel project like this and pretend that the impacts end at the property line,” said Nathan Matthews, staff attorney for the Sierra Club. “The public deserves to know the climate impacts of fracked gas from the wellhead to the pipelines to refinery, all the way to the export to Asia.”

The proposed plan is to construct and operate a facility that turns natural gas into methanol, which would then be shipped to China and used to make plastics.

NW Innovation Works, the company behind the methanol project, said it plans to evaluate its next possible steps with the project.

“We understand that the environmental policy in this state is evolving and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with regulators, stakeholders, and environmental and business leaders,” wrote NW Innovation Works President Vee Godley in an emailed statement.