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Draft EIS Released on New Methanol Plant in Pacific Northwest

Authorities in the state of Washington recently released a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for a new $1.8 billion methanol production facility by Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW) at Port of Kalama along the Columbia River. Public comments will be taken on the DEIS through April 18.

The DEIS concludes that with proper mitigation, the proposed natural gas-based facility does not pose an environmental or safety risk. The document released jointly by Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County, the lead agencies under the state environmental policy act (SEPA) process, outlines steps for NWIW and local authorities to take to ensure construction and operational safety.

NWIW has proposed three similar methanol production facilities in Washington state and Oregon for exporting supplies to Asian markets. But last month it reported that its plans for the Port of Tacoma south of Seattle had be put on hold due to serious local opposition (see Daily GPIFeb. 22). Port of Kalama is its leading project. A third one is proposed for Port of St. Helens along the Columbia River on the Oregon side at Port Westward.

Under the SEPA process, state and local agencies are required to consider the "likely environmental consequences" of a project before acting on any permits or approvals requested to build and operate the facility. The information gathered in the DEIS process can be used to change a proposal to reduce likely impacts.

"Kalama embraces industry on the Columbia and in the port, and waterfront industry is part of what built our community," said Adam Smee, Kalama city administrator, commenting on the DEIS's review of the methanol project's potential economic and environmental impacts. The city is not officially part of the permitting process, leaving that to the port and county jurisdictions.

"NWIW's proposed development of a methanol plant in the Kalama area contributes significant economic development to the region and family-wage jobs to our community," Smee said.

NWIW President Vee Godley said the project is good for the region, environmentally and economically, and the company is committed to "being a good neighbor in Kalama."

Last month NWIW selected a lead contractor, Technip USA Inc, to support the development of the proposed plant at the Port of Kalama. When the projected three-year construction begins -- now slated for 2017 -- Technip would oversee the building of the $1.8 billion facilities, creating up to 1,000 construction and 200 full-time jobs. Port of Kalama approved a lease agreement for NWIW in April 2014.

NWIW was created by China-based Clean Energy Commercialization Co., partnering with units of Double Green Bridge and the Chinese Academy of Science Holding Co., along with private investors in H&Q Asia Pacific. NWIW is owned by Chinese management company Shanghai Bi Ke Clean Technology Co. Ltd.

Since emerging more than two years ago and gaining federal environmental reviews of a critical gas supply pipeline (see Daily GPIJuly 14, 2015Jan. 27, 2014), NWIW has expanded its plans in Tacoma and added financial partners for all three processing plants.

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