Where are our climate champions on methanol?

Photo by Gregory Monahan, May 2017 "No Methanol" rally in Vancouver, WA.

By Miles Johnson, Clean Water Attorney
June 13, 2017

Last week, Governor Inslee and the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) abandoned their duty to protect the Columbia River, and Washington’s climate, from methanol refining and export. Governor Inslee has said that we are the last generation that can do anything about climate change. Governor: The time for talk is over. As the Trump administration abandons and undercuts efforts to combat climate change, we look to Washington state for action. Massive fossil fuel projects like the Kalama methanol refinery undercut Washington’s commitments on climate change.

Northwest Innovation Works seeks to build the world’s largest methanol refinery on the banks of the Columbia River in Kalama, Washington. The methanol refinery would convert fracked natural gas into liquid methanol, store the liquid methanol onsite, and export the methanol to China in large tanker ships. In China, the methanol could be used to manufacture plastics or burned as fuel.

The methanol refinery would emit over a million tons of greenhouse gases each year, making it one of the largest drivers of climate change in Washington.

On June 8, 2017, Ecology approved two permits for the Kalama methanol project. The first permit was for the pipeline to supply the methanol refinery with fracked gas. The second permit was a key land use approval required to build the refinery itself. Columbia Riverkeeper is deeply disappointed that Ecology put corporate profits ahead of protecting public health and combating climate change.

Riverkeeper also takes issue with Ecology’s claim that the land use permit requires the methanol refinery to mitigate for its greenhouse gas footprint. Ecology’s press release implied that the permit requires Northwest Innovation Works to offset all of the refinery’s carbon emissions. In reality, Ecology’s permit does nothing to reduce the methanol refinery’s carbon footprint. The permit allows the construction of a million-ton-per-year new source of greenhouse gas. And the incremental reductions in greenhouse gas emissions required over time by Ecology’s permit would be required anyway under Washington’s Clean Air Rule. Even with the incremental reductions, Northwest Innovations Works would still be one of the largest single climate polluters in Washington state.

Columbia Riverkeeper intends to challenge one or both of the permits issued last week. We promise to keep fighting to protect Columbia River communities, and our climate, against methanol and other dirty fossil fuels.