Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 8, 2018

Contacts:  Brett VandenHeuvel, Columbia Riverkeeper, (503) 348-2436
Cecile Gernez, Sierra Club Washington State Chapter, (650) 796-5041
Jared M. Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 310-4054

Cowlitz County Court: Kalama Refinery Proposal Ignored Pollution, Broke Law

KELSO, Wash.— The Cowlitz County Superior Court today upheld the Washington Shorelines Hearings Board’s decision that the Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County broke the law by failing to disclose and evaluate greenhouse gas pollution from the proposed Kalama methanol refinery.

A coalition opposing the project — including Columbia Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity represented by Earthjustice — call this another victory in the fight against fracking and fossil fuel export.

“The Port of Kalama must now choose: Appeal the Cowlitz County Superior Court’s decision; admit the true environmental cost of methanol refining and export; or abandon this dirty fossil fuel export project,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

“This would be the world's largest fracked-gas-to-methanol refinery, and its impacts extend far past the facility itself. Pipeline expansions, fracked gas extraction, and offsite global warming emissions all need to be considered in the Environmental Impact Statement," said Jesse Piedfort, director of the Washington State Sierra Club.

“This a big victory against a refinery that would devastate the local environment and set back efforts to combat the climate crisis,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Thanks to the court’s decision, regulators can’t ignore the refinery’s threat to our climate, as well as the air and water that people and endangered species rely on to survive.”

“It is state law and common sense. You can't build a massive new source of greenhouse gases without taking a hard look first,” said Stephanie Tsosie, associate attorney with Earthjustice.

The proposed methanol refinery would consume more fracked gas than every gas-fired power plant in Washington combined. By 2025 the project could become Washington’s single largest cause of climate pollution.

A subsidiary of the Chinese Academy of Sciences called Northwest Innovation Works seeks to build methanol refineries at Kalama, Washington, and Port Westward, Oregon, to take advantage of the region’s cheap fracked methane gas, electricity and water. The refineries would convert stunning volumes of fracked gas into methanol for export to China, to make plastics or fuel China’s growing fleet of automobiles.

Each methanol refinery could consume 270 million cubic feet of fracked gas per day, more than all other industry in Washington combined. Methane, collected by fracking, is a potent greenhouse gas. New studies show that fracking for methane gas is a major threat to our climate because methane escapes into the atmosphere from gas wells and pipelines.

State Board Rules that Port Of Kalama Violated Washington Law by Failing to Evaluate Greenhouse Gas Impacts, September 2017

Columbia Riverkeeper works to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Sierra Club is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization — with more than two million members and supporters.  

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health; to preserve magnificent places and wildlife; to advance clean energy; and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.

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