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Methanol plant area

The downriver end of the Port of Kalama property adjoining the Steelscape plant and vacant property which will be leased by Northwest Innovation Works for a methanol plant.

Sixteen environmental and public health organizations submitted comments Thursday opposing the proposed $2 billion Kalama methanol plant, contending the proponent is “greenwashing” the project to appear more environmentally friendly than it is.

Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility and other groups sent in the comments as part of the public comment period on a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The comment period closed Friday at 5 p.m.

Northwest Innovation Works wants to build the plant at the Port of Kalama to convert natural gas to methanol. The company paid Life Cycle Associates to study the “cradle-to-grave” greenhouse gas emissions related to the project. The study concluded the plant would have a net reduction on global greenhouse emissions by displacing coal-based methanol plants in China.

Riverkeeper’s statement reiterates points the group has made about the project earlier. Namely, that the study relies on speculation of global methanol markets and China’s use of coal-based methanol production and “cherry-picks” data about leakage rates for natural gas as it is fracked and transported to the Kalama site.

“We’re calling on Governor Inslee and Ecology to scrutinize the corporation’s misleading and incomplete evaluation of building the world’s largest fracked gas-to-methanol refinery and see the project for what it is: a mega climate polluter,” said Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, senior organizer for Columbia Riverkeeper in a press release Friday.

Kent Caputo, NWIW chief commercial officer and general counsel, said Friday the process has been “robust” and will continue to be. As the project moves forward, it’s important people’s concerns and variety of views are taken into account, he said. The company looks forward to the project advancing and working through the public’s concerns, Caputo said.

NWIW has pledged to voluntarily reduce or compensate for all 1 million tons of in-state carbon emissions. That, along with the predicted displacement of coal plants, is a “big deal,” Caputo said.

“We’re proud of the amount of work that we have put into crafting a project for a facility that is so environmentally conscious,” Caputo said.

NWIW has also touted the project’s economic benefits, including creating about nearly 1,000 construction and 200 permanent jobs.

The supplemental study was overseen by the Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County.

It was undertaken because the State Shorelines Hearings Board had concluded the original climate change analysis for the plant was inadequate and needed to consider the global impact of the carbon emissions.

Life Cycle Associates will produce the final study, which will include the public comments. Caputo said after the supplemental study is finalized and the EIS process complete, the county and State Department of Ecology will take the reports into account when deciding on any changes to permits already issued.

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