Mint Farm

Much of the wide open natural space at the Mint Farm could become a fertilizer plant with City Council approval. It will include using land now occupied by PNW Metals Recycling.

Bill Wagner, The Daily News

In a major step forward for the proposed ammonia plant, the City of Longview announced it is launching an extensive environmental review of the $1 billion Mint Farm Industrial Park project.

Pacific Coast Fertilizer volunteered to undergo an environmental impact statement (EIS) process, which will offer the public and government officials an in-depth analysis of the project’s potential impact.

City officials Monday kick started a 30-day comment period on the scoping process for the EIS. Scoping shapes what will be analyzed in the environmental review.

The proposed 61-acre project would produce 1,650 tons of fertilizers daily, primarily marketed to the Northwest agricultural industry. The plant would employ up to 100 workers to convert natural gas into anhydrous ammonia, a liquid commercial fertilizer.

Pacific Coast spokesman Paul Queary said the company wanted a more thorough EIS from the beginning when it first pitched its project more than a year ago.

“This is a big project. We expect people to have questions about it. We want to answer those questions,” Queary said. “We’re committed to building and operating this facility in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner and we think the EIS is the proper process to get there.”

Jumping to the EIS could also help the company avoid costly delays if the project underwent a less stringent environmental review that could potentially be challenged in court.

The city has identified three potential areas where the project may have significant impacts including: emissions, potential release of hazardous substances and impacts to emergency services. The project would require extending the natural gas supply; constructing manufacturing and storage facilities; transferring product to the Nippon Dynawave salt dock on the Columbia River; and constructing truck and marine vessel loading areas, according to the city.

Pacific Coast Fertilizer — a joint venture backed by Texas-based Saturn-Ferrostaal Chemicals LLC, Ferrostaal, Haldor Topsoe — will reimburse the city for costs associated with the EIS. The price tag for the EIS will likely be in the millions, but there is no estimate for the cost nor any estimate for how long the EIS will take to complete.

“I have in my career seen EIS’s that have been handled in less than a year, a full year or even a full six years for some local projects,” said John Brickey, community development director for City of Longview.

Pacific Coast officials said they weren’t discouraged by drawn-out permitting projects for similarly-sized projects on the Columbia River.

“We’re hopeful that the process can proceed quickly so that we can get to work building this project and putting people to work, but we understand that this process calls for thorough review and that will take some time,” Queary said.

Unlike the methanol and coal projects, Pacific Coast aims to sell its product domestically. The company’s liquid fertilizer would be marketed to Northwest agricultural retailers and transported by truck and ships.

“I would say that we are fundamentally distinct from those (coal and methanol) projects in the sense we intend to produce a commodity that is intended for the region,” Queary said.

The company would transfer its products by pipeline to nearby docks owned by Nippon Dynawave, according to the city. Typically farmers and retailers in the region pay about $150 more per a ton for nitrogen-based fertilizers compared to farmers on the Gulf Coast, because the fertilizers are imported from Canada and the Caribbean, according to Pacific Coast officials.

“The Pacific Northwest farmers need this product. What we’re seeking to do is produce it in a way that is closer to them,” Queary said.

Building the plant would cost between $800 million to $1 billion, and would generate about 1,000 construction jobs, according to the company. At full build out in 2021, the plant would employ between 80 to 100 workers, according to the company. J.H. Kelly and an Italian company, Saipem, would construct the plant together.

The plant could tap into an existing natural gas pipeline near the Mint Farm Industrial Park, with minimal extensions required.

Despite some public opposition, the Longview City Council in May agreed to sell about 19 acres of city land to Pacific Coast Fertilizer for $1.78 million. The sale is actually still pending, according to the city. Part of the plant will also be built on 36 acres of private land owned by PNW Recycling, a current Mint Farm tenant that will move to another location, and seven acres of additional land owned by a private party.

At last week’s city council meeting, a few members of the public spoke out against Pacific Coast’s plans, arguing that the area needs to move away from permitting projects heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

Opponents to the ammonia plant are already raising concerns about its potential greenhouse gas emissions, its use of natural gas, the safety of the plant and its proximity to residential areas.

But Brickey pointed out that the plant would be built in an area already zoned for heavy industrial use.

“It’s an opportunity for us to grow our industrial base. There’s a significant amount of investment in the plant itself … which will equate to a certain amount of sale tax and construction tax that would go into our general fund for the purpose of supplying services to our community,” Brickey said.

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