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Environmental groups sue federal agencies over Kalama methanol permits

Environmental groups sue federal agencies over Kalama methanol permits


A coalition of environmental groups Tuesday sued a federal agency for approving the permits for the proposed $2 billion Kalama methanol plant.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, alleges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to fully consider the “significant and harmful” greenhouse gas effects of the project when the agency issued a Clean Water Act permit in April.

“This fracked gas-to-methanol facility would be a disaster for water, wildlife, and the climate, and it should never have received federal approval,” said Stephanie Hillman, Sierra Club campaign representative, in a press release.

Northwest Innovation Works wants to build the plant at the Port of Kalama to convert natural gas into methanol for shipment to China for use in plastics manufacturing. The project is currently on hold as the state Department of Ecology reviews a shorelines permit. Ecology required the company to provide further information on the plant’s potential to affect global climate change and may rule on the shorelines permit before the end of the year.

The company says it will offset all of the project’s in-state greenhouse gas emissions and that the plant would not discharge wastewater into the river.

“The work by the Army Corps of Engineers and other regulatory agencies was comprehensive and exhaustive,” said Kent Caputo, Northwest general counsel. “We have no concerns with the sufficiency of the oversight undertaken.”

Washington Environmental Council, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Columbia Riverkeeper filed the legal challenge. The groups are represented by nonprofit law firm Earthjustice.

The complaint also asks National Marine Fisheries Service’s review of the project to set limits on “incidental take,” or harm, of threatened and endangered species, including salmon, Southern Resident killer whales and leatherback sea turtles.


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