The state Shoreline Hearings Board found fault with permits for the planned $1.8 billion methanol plant and called for more analysis of greenhouse-gas emissions.
A state hearings board has found flaws in an environmental-impact study used to gain key permits for a proposed $1.8 billion methanol plant in Kalama and ordered additional reviews.
The state Shoreline Hearings Board found that the study failed to do a complete analysis of greenhouse-gas emissions that will be produced by the plant, and ordered Cowlitz County and the port of Kalama to conduct additional research.
The decision was triggered by a permit appeal filed by environmental groups that had opposed the project to use North American natural gas as a feedstock to produce methanol, a chemical that would be shipped to China for use in the plastics industry.
The order is a setback for the developer, NW Innovation Works, a joint venture formed by CAS Holdings, a commercial offshoot of the Chinese Academy of Science. The project has been pitched as a cleaner alternative to producing plastics from coal-based methanol produced in China, and has received considerable political support in Washington state.
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Meanwhile, environmental groups praised the board’s decision.
In the permit that was found to be flawed by the board, the methanol plant was estimated to produce up to 1 million metric tons of carbon emissions a year. That amount is equal to just over 1 percent of the state’s current total emissions.
The board, in its decision, asked for additional analysis that would include estimates of greenhouse-gas emissions from the production and transportation of the natural gas used to produce the methanol.
The emissions that result from natural-gas production include methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.
Vee Godley, president of NW Innovation Works, said that the environmental study followed both “the letter and the intent of” of state guidance in evaluating greenhouse gas emissions, and that he was disappointed in the board’s order.
“This order requires the refinery and the Port to follow the law, to finally take an honest, thorough and hard look at all the greenhouse-gas pollution from and caused by this facility,” said Janette Brimmer, an attorney with Earthjustice.
Environmental groups are pushing for the state Department of Ecology to get more deeply involved in the analysis required by the board decision.