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Daily News editorial

Northwest Innovation Works, the company trying to build a methanol plant in Kalama, received several important permits this week. And we’re glad they did.

But even though the project is qualifying for permits, the state Department of Ecology continues to make up new standards along the way, which is just wrong. Together with environmental groups, the state seems to be putting more roadblocks in place in an effort to delay or halt this project – even though it’s supported by both the current governor and a former governor of our state.

In the last week NWI received a shoreline conditional use permit, water quality certificate and an air pollution permit. The project has been in the permitting process for about three years, which is way too long, but at least the permits are being issued.

On the same day the shoreline permit was issued, an environmental group indicated they will appeal the decision. It’s frustrating to see homeless folks wandering city streets, the number of homeless school-age children growing, and see family wage projects being blocked at every turn by extremist groups.

Sometimes it seems the enviro’s are more concerned about plants than people.

And this is not the first challenge thrown up by the environmental groups. In June 2016, the Riverkeeper group filed a petition with the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council asking the agency to take over responsibility for permitting the NWI from local governments. The idea was to further delay the project by subjecting it to statewide scrutiny.

While the environmental groups are putting up as many challenges as they can, the State Department of Ecology is placing rules and restrictions on NWI no other Washington company is subject to.

The DOE decided to incorporate the new state Clean Air Rule standards into the shoreline permit just issued to NWI. This rule is currently tied up in litigation, and nobody knows the outcome at this point, but Ecology incorporated the standards anyway.

This means if the courts reduce, change or dismantle the Clean Air Rule, NWI will still be subject to them even if they are no longer applicable. Seems a little disingenuous, doesn’t it?

This type of action makes a person wonder if the permit was intentionally issued before any court ruling so the standards could be baked into the shoreline permit. We’ll never know the truth.

All this is being done even though the project is supported at the highest levels of state government. The NWI project is something both Governor Inslee and former Governor Gary Locke have come out publicly in favor of.

We applauded Governor Inslee when he visited Cowlitz County a few years ago to support the NWI project. In August of 2015 Governor Inslee said in a speech that the NWI methanol project “moves our clean energy future forward at a very rapid pace.”

Former Governor Gary Locke also supports the NWI project: “This is a company with the right values — creating new jobs in Washington State that will help reduce the use of coal in China in the global effort against climate change.”

We continue to be baffled with the seemingly arbitrary methods of applying standards used by the DOE. The constant challenges by the extreme environmental groups are nothing new.

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After reading this we hope you do three things.

First, call your state representative and encourage them to challenge the DOE to apply environmental laws and standards equally and appropriately. If the DOE never feels any pressure, its arbitrary decisions will continue to hurt our regional economy.

The second call we hope you make is to the governor’s office. Tell the governor how much you appreciate his support and give him the kudos he deserves for supporting the NWI project. Then ask him to hold the DOE accountable for their practices.

Lastly, remember when you vote this coming November what’s happening to Northwest Innovations and Millennium Bulk Terminals as they try to invest billions in the local economy. Take the time to find out where candidates stand on these projects and only vote for those who support them.

As a final thought, don’t forget what the NWI project will do from an environmental standpoint. The project will significantly improve the environment from a worldwide standpoint. The Chinese currently buy methanol manufactured by burning coal, which spews at least seven times more greenhouse gases than using natural gas to make methanol.

With all the obfuscation, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.


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