Northwest Innovation Works says it can comply with a long list of conditions included in two shoreline permits approved last week for its proposed $1.8 billion Kalama methanol refinery. At the same time, the company formally asked the county hearing examiner Monday to revise his decision to fix some factual and typographical errors.
Cowlitz County Hearing Examiner Mark Scheibmeir’s decision to approve shoreline permits for the methanol project includes a long list of conditions meant to compensate for the plant’s environmental impacts. Port of Kalama has agreed to set aside up to 90 to 95 acres of land for mitigation purposes, and the company would not be able to discharge any treated wastewater in the Columbia River, among other conditions.
“After a careful and thorough review of the hearing examiner’s decision and the stringent conditions required for the shorelines permits, Northwest Innovation Works has determined that it can successfully build and operate the proposed facility within those conditions,” Vee Godley, president of Northwest Innovation Works, said in a prepared statement.
“The conditions imposed by the hearing examiner are strict and will result in additional costs for the project; however, we respect that they are the result of careful consideration of public comments and designed to further improve the quality and safety of the project for the environment and community,” Godley said.
However, the company submitted a request for reconsideration to fix “several typographical and factual errors that should be corrected to ensure clarity and accuracy in the final permit.”
The biggest error was the statement that the project would be the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington. The state’s biggest single source of greenhouse gas emissions is TransAlta’s coal-fired power plant in Centralia, which emitted 7.4 million metric tons in 2014, according to the state Department of Ecology. (TransAlta is slated to shut down by 2025.) B.P.’s Cherry Point Refinery is the second biggest emitter at 2.5 million metric tons.
The methanol project would be emit an estimated 1.24 million metric tons annually, boosting the state’s annual greenhouse emissions by 1.28 percent.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Scheibmeir acknowledged the mistake and that he meant to say that the methanol plant would be one of the state’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. He said he’s also reviewing other changes requested by Northwest Innovations and the Port of Kalama.
The shoreline permit would require the company to use a proposed ultra-low emissions technology to curb emissions. The plant would also be subject to the state’s Clean Air Rule, which requires large emitters to reduce greenhouse gas releases by an average 1.7 percent annually.
Proponents say the project would create 192 direct jobs and 496 indirect and induced jobs, generate an annual $21 million in annual payroll in direct jobs and produce annual local and state tax payments of between $30 million and $40 million. The plant will convert natural gas into methanol, which would be shipped to Asia to manufacture plastics. Proponents say the plant is cleaner than coal-based methods of producing methanol. Critics have raised objections to the volume of greenhouse gas the plant would emit and argue the project would encourage more fracking, a controversial method for extracting natural gas.
If Scheibmeir makes the changes Northwest Innovation seeks, then the request for reconsideration should only add about a week to the permitting process, according to the county. Cowlitz County is preparing to formally send his decision to the state Department of Ecology, which has a final say in whether the permits are issued. Depending on the outcome of Ecology’s decision, opponents have said they may file a challenge to the permit with the state Shorelines Hearing Board.