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Monthly Archives: January 2020

  • Permalink Gallery

    More lawmakers join Takko’s call for quicker, clearer methanol permitting

More lawmakers join Takko’s call for quicker, clearer methanol permitting

January 28th, 2020|

From The Daily News

A Southwest Washington lawmaker has gained bipartisan support in his push for a quicker, clearer permitting process for the proposed $2 billion Kalama methanol plant.

State Sen. Dean Takko, a Longview Democrat, on Monday sent a second letter to the governor criticizing the state Department of Ecology’s decision in November to delay approval of a key permit for the project. The new letter urges Gov. Jay Inslee to provide “clarification and immediate efforts” about the state’s recent decisions affecting the methanol plant, including Ecology’s decision to conduct a second environmental review.

“After nearly six years of permitting and associated (review), subjecting the Kalama project to a replacement round of unspecified environmental review is both unnecessary and heavy with implications for the economic development interests of the state,” the letter says.

The letter includes signatures from all of the legislators representing Cowlitz County, except for Rep. Richard DeBolt, who works for Northwest Innovation Works, the company proposing the plant. Sen. Lynda Wilson (R-Vancouver), Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center) and Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) also signed the letter.

Takko told The Daily News Monday that he is “frustrated” that permitting for the methanol plant has “drug on for five years.”

“Some legislators feel the same way. I’m sure if I circulated it (the letter) even longer and further, we probably could have gained more signatures,” he said.

Ecology’s new emissions study could extend the permitting process another year and cost taxpayers $600,000. Inslee is requesting funds for the study in his 2020 supplement budget.

A second SEIS would “needlessly cost the taxpayers,” the lawmakers’ letter says. Instead, Ecology should “articulate in very specific terms” its concerns with the current climate change analysis and work with the county and local environmental review officials to “come back to the table and resolve this unnecessary impasse.”

Cowlitz County and the Port of Kalama in August submitted their own environmental impact study, which concluded that the methanol plant would reduce global emissions by at least 10 million metric tons per year, or the equivalent of about 2 million cars, by offsetting coal-based methanol production. The company also has pledged to offset all its in-state greenhouse gas emissions.

Ecology called the study insufficient.

The governor’s office directed questions to the Department of Ecology. Ecology had not received a copy of the legislators’ letter Monday, but agency representatives said the new study was necessary to adequately answer questions about the project’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“What we’ve been asking for, we’ve asked multiple times, and for whatever reason, we have not been provided that,” said spokesman Jeff Zenk. “To fulfill our role as stewards of Washington’s environment, we had to take on the second supplemental EIS.”

Ecology’s new study will target the life cycle of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the environment. It will also investigate whether the project will displace other sources of methanol, rather than supplement them, Zenk said.

State Rep. Jim Walsh said he signed the letter because he wants clarification on the environmental review process, a “responsibility that rests squarely at the feet of Gov. Inslee.”

“It has been bent and twisted and pulled out of its original shape into something that’s a pretextual tool in killing industrial projects — and that was not the original purpose of the environmental impact study process,” said Walsh, an Aberdeen Republican. “The process was developed in good faith to make sure industrial development projects were undertaken with the full knowledge of the effects they would have on the environment and the community.”

Ecology keeps “changing the goal posts” for industrial projects like the methanol plant, Walsh said.

State. Rep. Ed Orcutt agreed. The Kalama Republican said the company has already met the state’s environmental requirements, so delaying the permits damages Washington’s reputation as a place for business.

“You don’t know if you will ever get your permit, even if you know you can meet all of the requirements they are showing. … These delays cost money, and if we are less competitive or we look like we are a higher risk (of denying projects) … these companies will stop looking at Washington state and go somewhere else,” Orcutt said.

That means the state would lose out on jobs and tax revenue from new businesses, he said.

Proponents of the methanol plant say it will create 1,000 construction jobs, nearly 200 permanent jobs and generate millions in tax revenue.

Inslee supported the project in its early days in 2014, but he announced his opposition to it in May while running to be U.S. president, with climate change as his campaign focus.

“This is a chance for the governor to get back to his first position, which was the right position and the best position,” Walsh said. “His opposition to the Kalama methanol project is pure politics.”

All of the lawmakers who signed Takko’s letter represent rural or suburban districts, Walsh said. If Inslee is sincere about his claims of helping rural communities thrive, he will heed their requests, Walsh said.

Gaining bipartisan support “always helps,” Orcutt added. And with Takko at the helm, the letter might appeal to the Democratic governor, Walsh said.

“The advantage of a Democrat being kind of the lead guy on it is that maybe the governor will see it through a nonpartisan lens. Since it’s not another party leading the change, maybe he will stop and listen.”

By Mallory Gruben

  • Permalink Gallery

    Bipartisan group of legislators pushes for faster action on Kalama methanol project

Bipartisan group of legislators pushes for faster action on Kalama methanol project

January 27th, 2020|

OLYMPIA – As the Department of Ecology prepares for additional environmental review for the proposed Kalama Manufacturing & Marine Export Facility, a bipartisan group of legislators organized by Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview) sent the following letter to Gov. Jay Inslee urging immediate efforts to produce an outcome that meets the community’s environmental and economic needs:

Dear Governor Jay Inslee,

We are writing to request clarification and immediate efforts regarding a series of recent departmental and executive actions impacting the Northwest Innovation Works, Kalama Manufacturing & Marine Export Facility. These actions include the Department of Ecology’s determination requiring a Second Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Second SEIS), your Directive of the Governor 19-18 regarding Environmental Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and a $600,000 appropriation request in your proposed 2020 Supplemental Budget to perform the second SEIS.[1]

A collaborative and transparent permitting process is key to attracting and retaining family wage jobs in rural communities while promoting high environmental standards. After nearly six years of permitting and associated SEPA process, subjecting the Kalama project to a replacement round of unspecified environmental review is both unnecessary and heavy with implications for the economic development interests of the state.

While meaningful progress has been made, Cowlitz County is one of several counties that continues to struggle with higher unemployment, lower wages, and lower labor participation rates than the statewide average. The Kalama project would provide a needed boost to its local economy, creating one thousand construction jobs and two hundred permanent jobs. And it is setting new standards for environmental sustainability, including 100% GHG neutral operations regionally with significant reductions globally.

We are motivated to support a process of environmental review that is comprehensive, fair, and without unreasonable delay. We are concerned that the latest round of announcements has diminished the confidence of stakeholders that the motive of the Department is substantive. Ecology dismissed a detailed response from Cowlitz County to its questions and determined that a Second SEIS was to be required without clarifying which, if any, of their questions remained unanswered nor why it was necessary to abandon a dialogue and pursue its own multi-year environmental review process.

Rather than replicate an entire SEIS, the Department should clarify which questions, if any, remain and undertake further limited review and identify the most efficient means to remedy any concerns that arise. In the Department’s October 9, 2019 request for more information from Cowlitz County, the Department found it reasonable to request answers to its questions within 30 days. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that the department can fulfill its inquiry on a similar timetable through continued cooperative efforts within the current longstanding process rather than through this unnecessary and redundant effort at considerable cost to the state.

We are urging regulators to work together in a constructive manner to produce an outcome that meets the state’s environmental oversight and economic development needs. However, starting over with a new SEIS that will needlessly cost the taxpayers $600,000 and take months or years to complete is unreasonable and unacceptable. At this time, we believe that it is prudent for Ecology to articulate in very specific terms the concerns it has with the current SEIS and to work with Cowlitz County and local SEPA responsible officials to come back to the table and resolve this unnecessary impasse.

In this context, we are also requesting clarification of the motivating factors and intent of Directive 19-18, and the underlying authorities being claimed to support the development of new rules. We do not believe this Directive, which delays the implementation of rules until 2021, should be used to justify further delay of the Kalama project SEIS by the Department and we seek assurances this is not the case.

Rebuilding stakeholder confidence in Ecology’s role in the regulatory oversight of the Kalama project starts with a renewed commitment to enhancing the communication between the Department of Ecology, Cowlitz County, and the Port of Kalama, with the continued cooperation and active efforts of Northwest Innovation Works. It is our expectation that the Department engage meaningfully to resolve remaining questions and reach a timely permitting decision within an already robust and extensive process.

In numerous conversations, both public and private, you have expressed your care and concern for rural communities. Together, let’s send the message that Washington can set exemplary environmental standards and stay open for business.

Sincerely,

Senator Dean Takko

Senator John Braun

Senator Lynda Wilson

Senator Ann Rivers

Representative Brian Blake

Representative Jim Walsh

Representative Orcutt

Representative Mike Chapman

CC

Senator Christine Rolfes, Chair, Senate Ways and Means

Senator David Frockt, Vice Chair, Senate Ways and Means

Representative Timm Ormsby, Chair, House Appropriations

Representative June Robinson, Vice Chair, House Appropriations

[1] Ecology SEPA Analysis (Budget summary, Page 167, Item 18): https://ofm.wa.gov/sites/default/files/public/budget/statebudget/20supp/2020SuppRecSumsCLvNL.pdf