OLYMPIA – After the state Department of Ecology announced that additional environmental review would be required for the proposed Kalama Manufacturing & Marine Export Facility, Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview) sent the following letter to Gov. Jay Inslee:

Dear Governor Jay Inslee,

I am writing to express my dismay with the way the Department of Ecology has managed the permitting process of the proposed Kalama Manufacturing & Marine Export Facility, a project of great importance to my constituents in the 19th Legislative District, to the whole state, nation, and across the globe.

I was proud to join with you in support of this project when it began its environmental review process nearly five years ago. Together, we recognized the unprecedented and uniquely promising opportunity that this project provided to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and bring much needed jobs to Southwest Washington. By aligning with your vision to combat climate change, I was optimistic we had finally struck a balance to unite the interests of rural Washington, labor, and environmental advocates.

Your decision to reverse your position on the project was a blow to me and the people of my district. For decades, our community has been left out of the economic prosperity experienced by much of the rest of the state. Environmental policies enforced by your administration have continually told the people of my district what we cannot do. Beleaguering this project despite its overwhelming practical and environmental benefits sends a clear message that the needs of the people of Southwest Washington are not a concern for your administration.

The overwhelming defeat of challengers in the Port District Commissioner’s race who attempted to make this last election a referendum on the project should dispel any claims of local opposition. Outsiders are having too much influence on decisions for our community.

Regardless of your personal position, I had hoped the Department of Ecology would continue its review impartially and stick to the facts. What has become clear is the Department is not committed to an honest process. In response to the Department’s letter of October 9th, 2019, demanding additional information related to the project and its mitigation plan, Cowlitz County provided detailed answers to questions but also outlined a troubling narrative of the Department failing to engage meaningfully with SEPA lead officials and project stakeholders and not respecting local autonomy.

Among several disconcerting facts, the County details how the Department “evaded requests from the applicant, the port authority and the County to meet to discuss any lingering or additional concerns or comments by the agency on this draft mitigation plan prior to or after publication of the SEIS. Instead the County was surreptitiously confronted with an uncompromising 30-day, shot clock letter or threat of stalemating the permitting process.” Further, according to the County the demands raised in the Department’s letter were “either beyond what both SEPA or the SMA require, or have already been provided or answered within the SEIS document and attachments. This, in turn, raises concerns whether Ecology undertook a thorough and adequate review of the information provided by the County before tendering its letter.”

The County’s response goes on to reiterate findings from the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) that the project would reduce upwards of 14.10 million metric tons of direct and indirect emissions annually, drawing upon an impressive body of research to detail the benefit of displacing coal derived methanol in China used in imported products such as clothing and electronics. That amount of emissions would exceed the combined reductions from the shutdown of Colstrip units 1 and 2, the shutdown of TransAlta, and all of Sound Transit 3.

I find it outrageous that a project of this magnitude that will make a significant contribution to addressing climate change while bringing powerful economic benefits to a struggling region would be treated with such disregard by the Department. It is even more stunning because the project applicant, Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW), has been exceedingly forthcoming and has made commitments for environmental protections which go above and beyond that of any other industrial entity in the state. These include:

  • Voluntary adoption of more expensive technology and engineering systems to be a zero waste-water discharge facility;
  • Voluntary adoption of first-of-its-kind Ultra Low Emission (ULE) technology;
  • A contractual obligation in its permit to ensure that 100% of its methanol is used for the manufacture of materials aimed at displacing coal-based methanol-to-materials pathways and does not get used in less clean applications;
  • Whether or not the Washington State Supreme Court’s upholds the Clean Air Rule, the facility will adhere to the requirements as specified in its Shoreline Conditional Use Permit;
  • A commitment to sourcing 1,000 MMBtu of renewable natural gas from landfills and dairy digesters, beginning on day one of operations and to scale upwards from there; and
  • A commitment to be 100% Greenhouse Gas Neutral starting on day one by adopting a mitigation plan to offset all of the company’s Washington State emissions, including those not directly attributable to facility operations. For comparison, the 100% Clean Electricity Bill passed last year would require GHG neutrality by the year 2030 for electric utilities.

My district is struggling to transition to the economy of the future. This project is unique and allows us to be a meaningful part of the solution to address climate change while creating family wage jobs. The announcement last Friday by the Department of Ecology to require a second SEIS which will further delay the project for at least another year or more is one more blow to my district. The Department’s announcement failed to explain with satisfying specificity why a second SEIS was necessary or how it would factor into an eventual permit decision. The Department will not point to a net benefit number that would result in either approval or denial of the permit, because there is no state law that defines this decision point. Rather than recognize the sufficiency and full spectrum of the analyses presented, the Department has once again decided to engage in tactics that put politics over science. This is a disastrous precedent that sends a chilling message to anyone looking to create manufacturing jobs in the state of Washington

The folks from Seattle and Portland who drive to my district and lecture us in town halls to say no to this project and hold out for some mythical job they deem acceptable are selling false hope. It’s ironic because the Kalama project was once held up as the better alternative to coal export terminals, before these same people changed their minds. How is NWIW, or any another company contemplating a project in Southwest Washington supposed to trust the state to treat them fairly? The Department’s decision is a cowardly swipe at our ambition to bring prosperity back to Southwest Washington. It compounds the difficulties of the people I represent who fear yet another opportunity for a brighter economic future is slipping away. We need jobs now!

Further, to side with opponents who argue that a delay is good for the environment is to embrace a profound intellectual dishonesty about where the products we use every day come from and how they are made. Olefins and artificial materials are essential components in phones, the fibers in sports jackets, and solar panels. We should not turn a blind eye to the reality of our consumption. Whether we build this facility here or not, our state’s economy will continue to rely on these materials and consumers will continue to demand them. What will change is these materials will be sourced from locations with far lower labor and environmental standards.

I expect us to do better. It is my request that you provide the necessary leadership to work with the Department to recognize the unique nature of this project and immediately change course to reengage in the spirit of urgency and collaboration to support its completion and maximize its potential economic and environmental benefits. My district cannot wait any longer.

Sincerely,

Senator Dean Takko
Democrat
19th Legislative District