Environmental groups are raising more concerns about the background of people proposing a $1.25 billion oil refinery and a propane terminal at the Port of Longview.

Columbia Riverkeeper recently released state and federal documents detailing the ill-fated history of an Odessa, Wash., company, TransMessis Columbia Plateau, which was run by the same people involved in Waterside Energy, the company proposing the Longview refinery and propane terminal.

In November 2013, TransMessis took over the $4.3 million biodiesel plant which is owned by the Odessa Public Development Authority but had been vacant for more than year. After cleaning up the facility, TransMessis starting producing biodiesel there in January 2014, but shut down the plant five months later when falling oil prices undercut the renewable energy market. TransMessis fell $200,000 behind on its rent, abruptly laid off 28 employees in June 2014 and left behind a legacy of chemical waste, according to the OPDA and documents presented by Riverkeeper.

“It was a monetary and environmental fiasco,” Linda Horst of Kelso said at Tuesday’s Port of Longview meeting. “We cannot let these people ruin our town the way they did in Odessa, and I urge you to send them packing,” she told port commissioners.

“What happened in Odessa could easily happen here,” said Sandra Davis, who also commented at the port meeting.

An inspection of the Odessa plant last March found that TransMessis left behind a 15,000 gallon methanol tank; a 7,000 gallon glycerin tank; several leaking tanks and totes; unsecured/open chemical containers; and incompatible chemicals stored next to one another, according U.S Environmental Protection Agency. EPA estimates that the final cleanup costs will be about $580,000.

The company also left behind considerable debt, including $200,000 in unpaid rent to the OPDA, $8,809 in unpaid rent to a private fire suppression company and $6,544 in unpaid state taxes. A seed company also is suing TransMessis for nonpayment of $1.6 million in canola seed.

Damon Pistulka was CEO of TransMesisis and now is a project manager for Waterside Energy. In addition to Pistulka, Lou Soumas and Chris Efird were directors for TransMessis’ parent company. Soumas is now the CEO of Waterside and Efird is Waterside’s executive chairman.

Pistulka said by phone Tuesday he was never made aware of any the EPA’s findings and that the company has never received any citation or violation notice from the agency.

“When we left the facility it was in better shape than it ever had been from a cleanliness standpoint and from an operations standpoint,” he said. TransMessis spent “hundreds of thousands” of dollars cleaning up the mess from the plant’s former tenant, Pistulka said.

He added that TransMessis had nothing to do with the plant after July 2014, and the inspection didn’t occur until several months after the company already had left.

“People make it sound like we were out hunting for a deal to take advantage of these people,” Pistulka said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Columbia Riverkeeper attorney Miles Johnson lamented TransMessis’ “willingness ... to walk away and leave these hazardous chemicals without proper containment in a place where people could get hurt. ... The inability of these people to run a very small, uncomplicated operation bodes poorly for their ability to run a much larger, more complicated facility in Longview.”

Soumas said environmental groups are trying to spin the Odessa experience to bolster their opposition to the Longview project. He added that Waterside is working with the Port of Longview to vet the project.

Port Commissioners had little to say about the documents presented in advance to them by Riverkeeper. Commissioners Doug Averett and Jeff Wilson declined to comment. Commissioner Bob Bagaason said the documents were given to the port staff working on the Waterside refinery and terminal projects.

“Documents like these always bring up questions in your mind,” Bagaason said,declining to elaborate.

(10) comments

slayer

You would think the Port could look into Louis Soumas business background with all his failures and law suits. They have no backing as of yet for a billion dollar startup. They took the money from Transmessis and ran overnight. It is what it is a shyster job. The last thing I would want in the City of Longvew is a refinery with a track record as these people have, take a look commissioners it's not that hard.

See the Light

Thank you, TDN and Marissa, for your reporting on this article. My research has also revealed the way these businessmen handled the bio-diesel plant operation in Odessa and the way it was closed without notice. From the very start, they falsified a credit application with their supplier Wolfkill for purchase of canola seed. This is very telling of their true business practices.

crowsfoot
crowsfoot

All it takes to mentally poison the masses is like the TV commercial I saw this morning. --"Just what are these chicken by-products in my dogs food? Buy this brand that has none"-- Now many people will think badly of some of the same stuff they get in cheap chicken nuggets being in they're dogs food, why? because someone questioned and implied it was bad without telling you why (the truth), they condemned them as bad for your dog. This tactic instills doubt and sells they're product. Brain wash.

Don C Steinke
Don C Steinke

BNSF averages more than 260 derailments per year. The tank cars puncture at 13 mph. Oil spills cost billions and at best only 14% of the oil is recovered. Propane explosions look like atom bombs. Google it.

slayer

Why in the world would you even think of putting a gas refinery and a propane terminal within 1 mile of a residential area ? The kill zone from such a blast is 1/2 mile, have you ever seen what a concussion blast doe's to the human body it's not pretty.

Mr K

580k is kind of small potatoes when it comes to the costs of environmental clean ups. Most ground contamination clean up costs probably start at $500k.

patioguy

The fact that information about this cast of characters has been available for some time makes me wonder why the Port would talk with them at all. Maybe that's why they sent the CEO down the river.

Writer Smiter

This community has a historical pattern of boom/bust. Studies have found that communities are worse off when the bust hits than they were before the boom. Crime rises, education levels drop and health problems increase. Step away from the fossil fuel ledge, Commissioners! Start using your imagination, think outside the dirty, explosive box and bring us a long term, healthy winner!

See the Light

Mr K - I think the whole point about these contaminants left in the building when the doors were closed and locked, was that no one knew they were there. Damon Pistulka chose not to bother to remove them or advise EPA. How can he say the property was in better shape than when he took over? Again, why are taxpayers left to foot the bill when industry abandons these ill-conceived projects. This is one-half million dollars of taxpayer money - not a small amount.

crowsfoot
crowsfoot

boom/bust--is what life is all about, birth/death the ultimate boom/bust, car manufactures, steel mills, smelt runs, snow packs, boom/bust is what life is all about. Vote for Bernie he will save everything but the ultimate boom/bust. Fantasy and time are illusions.

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