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Port denied competitive federal grant for methanol plant dock, roads
METHANOL PLANT

Port denied competitive federal grant for methanol plant dock, roads

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The Port of Kalama did not receive federal grant funding it sought to help pay for the dock and roads needed for the proposed $2 billion methanol plant.

The port applied for a $11.5 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant (or BUILD) earlier this year. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced grant winners last week.

Port Executive Director Mark Wilson said the program is competitive and only two projects in Washington were funded in 2018.

“It’s always been something of a long shot, but we always try,” Wilson said.

The port plans to move forward on the project with or without grant funding, Wilson said.

Northwest Innovation Works wants to build the plant on 90 acres on the north end of the Port of Kalama. It would convert natural gas to methanol, a key ingredient in plastics manufacturing, which would be shipped to Asia.

The port plans to build an export dock, new roads to the plant and nearby businesses, as well as a recreation area. The entire project would cost $23 million, and the port would provide $11.5 million in matching funds.

Wilson said the port has applied for the grant funding for four or five years. It will apply again if the program is available next year and if it hasn’t started building by then, he said.

Environmental groups opposing the plant, including Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, argue the public shouldn’t be paying for something that mainly benefits a private company.

Wilson said it’s not unusual for the port to use grants or other funding to support individual companies unless the grant source specifies otherwise. Multiple companies will benefit from the dock, he said.

Public ports routinely spend money to attract private investment and earn it back through lease payments.

Receiving a grant for the project wouldn’t change the rates NWIW would pay to use the dock, Wilson said. NWIW would pay the port about $4.9 million per year in dockage fees and land lease payments, according to the economic analysis done with the Environmental Impact Statement.

Wilson said the port has been seeking funds for the dock before NWIW was involved. The port will look for other grants for the project but infrastructure grants are uncommon, he said.

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