Need for additional study has delayed the release of a draft environmental impact statement for a proposed $1 billion ammonia fertilizer plant in Longview. But company representatives say the study should be completed by the end of this year — about a year later than first announced — and the project is still underway.
“As part of the comprehensive review and study conducted under the draft EIS process, we have found a number of connected actions that require more survey,” said Pacific Coast Fertilizer spokesman David Richey Thursday.
For example, the company decided to reduce the overall footprint of the proposed 60-acre plant by about eight acres, Richey said, requiring the team to re-evaluate how to prevent excessive noise levels in nearby residential and industrial neighborhoods.
The smaller footprint will enable Pacific Coast to avoid damaging wetlands northeast of the building site, Richey said.
The company “is also exploring the possibility of reducing the size of the process area; we must remodel for noise and other impacts,” Richey said.
The deeper the environmental study, often the more time it takes to complete, said City of Longview Economic Development Coordinator Joe Phillips on Tuesday.
Pacific Coast in 2016 proposed building a plant in the heart of the Longview Mint Farm Industrial Park to convert natural gas to liquid ammonia fertilizer. The city approved the project in 2017 and has been involved in the permitting process for the plant.
Although it had the option to pursue a less exhaustive permitting process, Pacific Coast volunteered to undergo a full EIS process. Company officials expected the draft EIS to be completed by the spring of 2018, according to a 2017 TDN article.
“Originally when we talked to them, they thought it would have been done by now, but they were being optimistic,” Phillips said. He added that he is “not surprised we don’t have an EIS yet” because “these things take quite a bit of time.” And the depth required for an EIS has gotten more detailed over time, he said.
“We just have different issues now than we have had in the past,” Phillips said, citing review of off-site operations.
For example, Pacific Coast may need to look at leakage potential for the natural gas it is pumping into the plant using an existing pipeline from Nippon Dynawave, even though the supply is not directly on-site, Phillips said.
Richey said the company will also need to assess the impact of off-site parking and storage areas or stormwater drainage lines on cultural resources and wetlands, once the company decides where those areas will be.
“Things off-site were not necessarily a part of this process before, but it’s becoming part of the process,” Phillips said.
And sometimes an EIS can be “kind of like shooting at a moving target in terms of what will pass (public) scrutiny,” he said. He pointed to other projects that have been the subject of lawsuits from opponents who thought the study insufficiently addressed environmental concerns.
Richey said the draft EIS will address all the potential impacts of the plant and provide “analysis and conduct studies for mitigating them.” The idea is to “protect the environment and our neighbors” while also allowing the company to supply regional farmers with a product they currently buy at premium prices from foreign countries, Richey said.
The proposed plant would produce about 1,600 tons of liquid fertilizer per day, according to the company’s website. Most of that product would be sold within the Pacific Northwest agricultural industry.
Pacific Coast officials estimate it will cost between $800 million and $1 billion to build the plant. Almost 1,000 construction jobs and about 80 to 100 permanent jobs will be created as a result of building the plant, according to the website.
Liquid ammonia would be stored on-site, and about 50 million cubic feet of natural gas would be piped in from an existing line owned by Nippon Dynawave.
Some Longview community members and environment advocates have strongly opposed the project, citing concern for public safety, spills and the risk of explosions.
Those concerns are likely to be addressed in the EIS, and the public will have additional opportunities to comment on the project once the EIS draft is released.
“We are really looking forward to seeing what’s in the environmental impact study, in terms of what that will mean for the community,” Phillips said.