Chinook Ventures lease in jeopardy over permit violations

2010-06-17T23:15:00Z 2011-02-09T16:31:19Z Chinook Ventures lease in jeopardy over permit violationsBy Erik Olson / The Daily News Longview Daily News
June 17, 2010 11:15 pm  • 

Longview-based Chinook Ventures is facing possible eviction by state regulators following repeated environmental violations in its clean up of the the former Reynolds Metals Co. site.

However, a Chinook official says the company plans to file its first formal environmental impact plan next month, which state agency officials say will allow the company to stay at the site.

Chinook plans to finish a draft of the state-mandated plan detailing the environmental consequences of its work along the Columbia River next week, then submit it in July, said Pat Patterson, Chinook director of operations.

Without a plan, the state Department of Natural Resources could yank away its aquatic lands lease for Alcoa Inc., which is leasing the 416-acre site to Chinook, a mineral import/export firm west of Longview. DNR governs land surrounding waterways, and the action would be similar to a landlord evicting a tenant.

Chinook bought the buildings on the site of the former Reynolds aluminum plant out of bankruptcy court in 2004. The site had been contaminated since Reynolds built the smelter in 1941, and Chinook officials said they planned to clean up the 416-acre site and build a private port.

Pennsylvania-based Alcoa Inc. bought the site from Reynolds in 2001.

DNR last month sent a letter to Alcoa saying it was in default because Chinook did not have permits for much of the work the company was doing. However, because the company plans to file the environmental impact plan, DNR likely won't force Chinook to leave, agency spokeswoman Jane Chavey said.

Most companies file a comprehensive environmental plan before they start working at a site, but Chinook officials were unaware of state requirements, said Alan Bogner, regional lead of the governor's office of regulatory assistance.

"Chinook was probably a little naive and didn't necessarily understand the process," Bogner said.

State, county and federal regulators have penalized Chinook multiple times, including:

• A $92,000 fine from the Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency last year for failing to control chemical emissions.

• A $150,000 fine from the state Department of Ecology for failing to obtain permits to store and transport chemicals.

• A $40,000 fine from Ecology this year for spilling between 25 and 50 cubic yards of petroleum coke into the Columbia River.

• An order from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year to stop all work in the Columbia River after installing piles to build a dock in the water and modifying a conveyor system without proper permits.

• An order from Cowlitz County last year to stop work around the water for failing to obtain shoreline permits.

Following the petcoke spill in February, Chinook hired an independent investigator, Portland-based Marine Systems Inc., to determine the cause. In a report released in April, Marine Systems determined Chinook had failed to properly cover its conveyor belt while off-loading the petcoke and the company had improperly stored and disposed of waste and hazardous materials on the site.

That worries Columbia RiverKeeper, the Portland-based environmental group filed a lawsuit in federal court against Chinook in November alleging violations of the Clean Water Act.

Brett VandenHeuvel, the agency's executive director, said he questions whether Chinook is trying to comply with environmental regulations.

"It's difficult to believe there's a change of heart," VandenHeuvel said Thursday.

Chinook's actions have been unfair to other waterfront businesses and ports, he added.

"When the agencies don't enforce the law, it creates an uneven playing field."

Chinook has ceased its petroleum coal, or petcoke, and cement export businesses since the February spill, Patterson said, but it's currently conducting other permitted activities. Chinook is currently off-loading coal on rail cars for Weyerhaeuser Co. and is shipping and receiving alumina, the raw product used to manufacture aluminum, Patterson said.

If the company obtains its permits, it could start operating fully and cleanly by the end of the year, he said.

"These are products that are traditionally handled on the waterfront at other locations," Patterson said.

Copyright 2016 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. columbian
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    columbian - June 17, 2010 11:27 pm
    About time we started getting back part of the USA from the FOREIGN COUNTRY'S that dont want to obay our laws.
  2. frenchcanadien
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    frenchcanadien - June 18, 2010 5:46 am
    Leases in jeopardy over permit violations, I don't think so. Protocol for permit violations are filed with the proper agencies, but that's as far as they will go. Chinook Ventures will get their permits, violations or not.
  3. cheney119
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    cheney119 - June 18, 2010 8:03 am
    Thank goodness the regulators are on the job.

    CORPORATIONS CAN NOT BE TRUSTED...IN ANYTHING!!

    Their only motivation is profit, they have no sense of right and wrong. I'm tired of hearing about jobs. What difference will it make if the Earth can no longer sustain life?
  4. the mole
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    the mole - June 18, 2010 10:24 am
    everyone should be glad this has happened,the air pollution/water pollution this company has caused is terrible.the environmental impact statement is supposed to be filed first! not after a spill.so somebody in the permit department is as much at fault as chinook ventures also !!
  5. krishna
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    krishna - June 18, 2010 10:27 am
    I love the comment from Alan Bogner from the governor's office," Chinook ventures was probably a little naive." I hate it when government officials treat us like we are idiots. Does Alan really think we believe that Chinook Ventures is a little naive? What an idiotic comment. I just wish government officials would stop making excuses for criminal corporations. We all know the officials are in the corporations pockets but just stop being so obvious about it. It's insulting.
  6. starkfeplumfit
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    starkfeplumfit - June 18, 2010 12:19 pm
    We ought to be glad a private company is cleaning up this toxic waste site instead of the government. Let's educate them, give them a tax break and a pat on the back.
  7. cosmic88
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    cosmic88 - June 18, 2010 1:12 pm
    So, they're trying to clean up the place by removing the polution that was put there by Reynolds and they get in trouble? At least they're trying...
  8. kelsograd
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    kelsograd - June 18, 2010 5:10 pm
    I agree with cheney119, let the government then control all aspects of life, it seemed to work for the soviets & north koreans.
  9. Tabytha
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    Tabytha - June 18, 2010 6:30 pm
    The government officials have failed again miserably. It was certainly no secret what Chinook Ventures has been up to these past many years. They are working right out in the open. Barry Oliver naive? Certainly not. Corrupt and sly like a fox would be the accurate description. Yes, he is a foreigner but Canada has laws similar to ours so his nationality is no excuse.
  10. Gondolapete
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    Gondolapete - June 18, 2010 8:52 pm
    cheney you mean to tell me corporations are in business to make money??? HOW ABSURD OF THEM!!!!!! of course they also provide jobs...in fact most jobs in this town are provided by a corp..but hey, dont let that pesky fact bother ya...
  11. fossagrimmin
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    fossagrimmin - June 18, 2010 9:20 pm
    Yes cheney is always correct,,let the government take over,,they do such a good job ,and they are in absolute control over right and wrong....lol...lol. The government will provide for all our needs.
  12. columbian
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    columbian - June 19, 2010 12:42 am
    They took over the FIBER AND NOW THE PORT.Little by little we are selling out to Canada.
  13. barylbruner
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    barylbruner - June 19, 2010 5:41 am
    kelsograd- you graduated from high school without learning that we, unlike North Korea and Russia, are a democracy? That means that the government is US. How someone could have more faith in industry than our regulatory institutions is unbelievable.
  14. Sanity Has Returned
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    Sanity Has Returned - June 19, 2010 11:55 am
    @ cosmic88, didn't you read the article? They were fined earlier this year for a petcoke spill. What I find amazing is that anyone would want to eat anything out of the columbia river with all the garbage that gets dumped. Funny how the rest of the country's image of the clean, beautiful, rustic Pacific NW is completely false and naive. This entire country is becoming a toxic wasteland. How are we going to sustain the human race if this continues?
  15. kelsograd
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    kelsograd - June 19, 2010 12:26 pm
    kindred, i think it's called "tongue in cheek"
  16. Horatio Bunce
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    Horatio Bunce - June 21, 2010 11:01 am
    Doesn't it make you so happy that our government agencys are ensuring that they get all of their permit and fine income so that they can wisely spend it on things like welfare while all that those evil corporations are doing is giving people employment so as to actually earn their money? How about puttin one of those desk jocky bureaucrats on-site so that they can oversee the operation and learn what working for a living is all about?
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